IBM Recruits Smarter Planet Allies

Michael Vizard

IBM wants to enlist an army of startup technology vendors as part of an effort to advance the development of solutions that complement its Smarter Planet campaign.

According to Drew Clark, director of strategy for the IBM Venture Capital Group, the notoriously complicated-to-work-with IBM is now putting dedicated resources in place to help startup companies navigate the labyrinth of processes that make up any given IBM sales cycle.

Clark says that IBM is especially interested in applications that run on top of its middleware infrastructure that more often than not serves as a foundation for creating various industry platforms that IBM sells. An application that extends one of the platforms is a lot easier to sell from the perspective of an IBM salesperson than something that requires a new set of middleware infrastructure, he noted.

As part of an IBM Global Entrepreneur initiative, IBM is making cloud computing resources available to these startup companies via Amazon's EC2 platform. But over time, Clark says IBM will try to move the more successful applications over to an internal cloud computing platform managed by IBM.

In addition, Clark says IBM will apply its considerable resources to help application vendors crack new markets either in vertical industries or in countries where application vendors currently have little to no presence.

Whether the IBM effort ultimately succeeds remains to be seen. Every other year, a major vendor seems to rediscover its application partners. But given IBM's focus on Smarter Planet these days, and the fact that the company is working with a raft of venture capitalists on this initiative, it's clear that the company is making a concerted effort to bring unique IT solutions to market.

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