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IBM said this week that just two months after rolling out its LotusLive partner program, it now has recruited more than 200 partners to sell its cloud-based e-mail, Web conferencing and collaboration applications.
Company officials said new integrated apps from the likes of Skype and Silanis have helped make the case for IBM's cloud-based suite of business applications, particularly for customers in the insurance and banking industries.
IBM (NYSE: IBM) claims more than 18 million users are running LotusLive in the enterprise.
"Whether it's in the cloud with LotusLive or on-premise with Lotus Foundations, IBM is making information technology easier to use for customers and simpler to provide for partners through a hybrid cloud and on-premise delivery model," Alistair Rennie, general manager of IBM's Lotus group, said in a statement.
IBM desperately wants to find its footing in the cloud-based collaboration space with the likes of Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and has made several strategic moves in the past year to better position itself for growth.
In October, IBM launched LotusLive iNotes at $36 per user, a belated attempt to take on Google's Apps Premier ($50 a month).
At the time, however, analysts said IBM's foray into the lightweight, cloud-based e-mail service didn't offer as many features, functions or storage as Google's offering.
"On the one hand, IBM is finally delivering something in this space and it should be applauded," Gartner analyst Tom Austin told InternetNews.com at the time. "But the way I view it, it's just an early down payment on a strategy that's too late."
But IBM thinks it now might have a better alternative for small and midsized businesses, particularly after Microsoft announced it would discontinue Windows Essential Business Server, its flagship platform for SMBs.
Also, IBM is expanding the capabilities of Lotus Foundations in the cloud, integrating DB2 Express database software into the core appliance offering at no charge, giving SMBs unlimited database size, no cap on the number of instances or databases per server and no restrictions on the number of users.
IBM is also offering clients and partners free trials of several cloud services, including LotusLive Meetings, LotusLive Connections, LotusLive iNotes and LotusLive Engage.