Los Angeles – IBM (NYSE: IBM) used its Partner Leadership Conference Wednesday to unveil several channel programs to its more than 90,000 worldwide partners.
In his keynote address Ravi Marwaha, general manager, IBM Global Business Partners, outlined the key growth strategies the vendor will be relying on partner help to execute on: high growth markets, mid-market innovation and the new enterprise data centre.
The big area, however, will be in data centres. IBM sees significant partner opportunity around this market, said Marwaha.
“They’re being transformed, driven by virtualization, energy efficiency, business resiliency and service management,” said Marwaha. “We’re calling this the new enterprise data centre, and we’ll transform thousands of them worldwide.”
To help IBM get there, the vendor has announced plans to create a new business partner program to expand data centre skills and best practices with an eye to helping IBM partners capitalize on the market opportunity.
The new program will include solution specialties, with certifications in key areas such as consolidation and virtualization, green/energy efficiency, business resiliency and security. It will be a two-tiered program, and will offer data-centre specific marketing and sales benefits including assistance with education, enhanced margins and pre-sales assessment funding and technical assistance, as well as an emblem program.
While he’s only had a high-level view of the new data centre program so far and he would like more details, Pat Waid, president and COO of Montreal-based Hartco, said he sees the data centre as a very good opportunity for IBM and its channel partners.
“Market needs are aligning to some of IBM’s traditional strengths in the data centre,” said Waid. “A growing number of partners have been capitalizing on the consolidation and virtualization opportunities, so it seems to me a natural evolution in the partnership between IBM and its system integrator and IT solutions partners.”
In the end, said Waid, the success of the IBM program will come down to the details, and the execution.
Other vendors such as Cisco Systems have also been talking-up the data centre opportunity, and Waid said there are common themes coming from one vendor to the next.
From IBM, Waid said he’ll be looking for the vendor to complement what they’ve developed around the data centre in recent years, and ensuring the vendor engages with partners with Hartco in a predictable and consistent way. And, with the increasing complexity of the data centre for partners, richer margins would be expected as well.
Dave Walsh, global vice-president, marketing, product management and technical services with IT Xchange, noted every major vendor in storage, servers, networking or ERP software has put a stake in the data centre ground over the past year, so such a push only makes sense for IBM’s enterprise product line up.
“However, I think they should also demonstrate their vendor-to-vendor partnering capabilities and bring a multi-vendor solution to the offering,” said Walsh.
IBM is also creating an alliance program for independent hardware and software vendors with the goal of supporting industry standards around data centres.
As an example of how such standards could work, greater interoperability could facilitate the end-to-end monitoring and management of data centre power use. Already onboard are Brocade, Citrix, Eaton, Emulex, Juniper Networks, Novell, RedHat, Sun and VMware.
The other two channel programs are aimed to certify partner skills across borders and to help unique partner solutions be exported internationally.
Of IBM’s 10,000 new partners last year he noted 3,000 came from emerging markets such as Brazil and Russia. And in Russia, he noted, 90 per cent of IBM’s revenue last year was driven through the channel.
“Growth in these markers create opportunities for our entire ecosystem,” said Marwaha.
The opportunity has always been there in the mid-market but it’s accelerating, and increasingly Marwaha said companies are looking for the same solutions as their enterprise cousins, but tailored for their business needs with partner help on implementation. To help, he said IBM is investing more in lead management, in incentives, and in demand generation and co-marketing. The vendor is also expanding its mid-market targeted offerings, from hardware and software to services.