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IBM inks partnership with Invensys

IBM is working with Invensys plc, the company that last year purchased ailing enterprise application vendor Baan.

NEW YORK -- IBM has expanded its roster of strategic alliance partners by announcing a deal with Invensys, the British-based automation and controls group that acquired troubled enterprise resource planning vendor Baan last year.

The two companies said they plan to work together on projects that involve linking factory floor sensor-based applications to enterprise information systems, customers and suppliers. They will mainly target manufacturers in the aerospace, automotive and electronics industries -- all areas in which Baan has an established presence.

The deal is classic IBM. In return for helping Invensys market its suite of business-to-business, enterprise and shop-floor software products -- including the iBaan ERP series, Wonderware Factory Suite, CAPS Logistics and CRM product lines -- Big Blue ties Invensys into pushing its middleware and database products, including the WebSphere application server, DB2 database and WebSphere MQ series messaging software, to new customers.

The agreement extends an existing relationship between IBM Global Services and Baan dating back to 1998, under which IBM provided implementation and integration services for the Netherlands-based software company.

Since exiting the applications software market, IBM has built up a huge network of partnerships said to involve about 10,000 strategic agreements in the top tier. Interestingly, another of its key strategic partnerships is with SAP, one of Baan's main rivals in the ERP software market.

IBM executives acknowledged that SAP, which was told about the new partnership ahead of the announcement, would rather it had not happened, but insisted that the relationship with the German enterprise software vendor remains both strong and successful. Greg Dietfeld, general manager of IBM's aerospace and defense division, insisted that there was little overlap between the two partnerships.

Indeed, IBM and SAP extended their long-standing alliance just a few months ago, with IBM agreeing to retrain most of its Global Services consultants to support the full suite of e-business applications. At the time, IBM and SAP also announced a cross-licensing agreement under which IBM licensed software from SAP Portals to integrate with WebSphere Portal Server, and SAP Markets-- SAP's joint venture with Commerce One -- licensed IBM's WebSphere middleware.

But both IBM and SAP made it clear that the agreements were nonexclusive and would not affect other relationships -- for example, IBM's alliance with i2 and Ariba. Indeed, since that agreement was announced, the SAP Portals unit and Baan have announced their own partnership in the enterprise portal market.

The announcement now that IBM and Invensys have formed a strategic alliance highlights once again that in today's enterprise software market, rivals in one area are frequently partners in another sphere.

It also underscores the powerful constellation of partnerships IBM has been building as part of its assault on three separate infrastructure software markets -- databases, where the main competitor is Oracle; application servers, where it is battling BEA Systems; and messaging/integration, where Tibco is the main rival. The announcement of strategic alliances with vendors like Invensys will add to the pressure on these rivals to respond.

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