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IBM challenges Microsoft, Citrix with channel-exclusive virtualization play

IBM's virtual desktop offering targets the mid-market customer and will be deployed exclusively through the channel

With its first virtual desktop offering for the midmarket, IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) is squarely targeting virtualization rivals such as Microsoft and Citrix Systems. And it’ll be looking for the channel’s help.

IBM’s Virtual Desktop for Smart Business is a workforce mobility offering that allows access to personal desktops from an array of endpoints, including desktops, laptops, netbooks, tablets, thin clients and even smartphones.

Ed Abrams, vice-president of midmarket marketing at IBM, said the solution allows Windows or Linux desktops to be hosted and managed centrally, bringing all the management and efficiency savings that come with virtualization.

“The market is telling us they’re looking for purpose-built solutions that solve specific business needs,” said Abrams. “One of the areas coming as a big need is managing the desktop environment of their organizations. This solution allows them to do so in a cost-effective manner.”

The solution will also be available exclusively in North America through IBM’s channel partners. Abrams said midmarket customers told IBM they want solutions like this delivered through a local channel partner that can work with them and provide ongoing support.

The offering is targeted at companies with fewer than 1000 employees, but Abrams said it will scale down effectively to smaller companies in the tens of desktops. It’s priced in Canada at $193 per user, per year. The solution can either be hosted in the customer data centre, or through a partner’s private cloud environment.

Abrams declined to disclose margins, but described them “competitive” and added there’s also good opportunity for partners to build revenue by adding complementary services, such as desktop management, level one through three support, storage backup and recovery, and data protection services.

“These are all areas where we believe can provide great opportunity for our partners to bring added value and their own services to bear,” said Abrams.

Looking at the competitive landscape, Abrams said he sees IBM’s offering stacking-up well. He also sees more businesses looking for flexibility when it comes to deploying to different end points.

“We’re seeing more and more businesses of all sizes, particularly in the SMB, experimenting and expanding into alternate media types, such as iPads and smartphones,” said Abrams. “Alternate platforms are absolutely critical, and a growinf aspect of what we’re seeing happen in the market.”

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.