IBM takes business partner program beyond the data centre

Seeing growing opportunities to take the IT infrastructure business case beyond the data centre and pair it with a green message, IBM (NYSE: IBM) is launching a Dynamic Infrastructure partner specialty and is arming partners with new resources and earning opportunities as they target this growing market.

Dynamic Infrastructure (DI) is actually a revamping and rebranding of the New Enterprise Data Center (NEDC) partner specialty that IBM launched at its Partner Leadership Conference last May in Los Angeles. Stephen Timms, channel marketing and enablement executive with IBM Canada, said DI moves beyond the data centre focus of NEDC is the first of four pillars IBM will be rolling-out as part of its Smarter Planet initiative.

“The world is becoming more instrumented, interconnected and intelligent, and it’s a unique opportunity in history to create infrastructure that allows us to do things more effectively and smarter,” said Timms.

The Dynamic Infrastructure initiative, said Timms, includes software and hardware offerings and best practices tailored around the idea of creating an infrastructure that is cheaper to build, easier to manage, and better able to respond to changing business conditions. It’s a message, he added, that is particularly powerful in this economy.

And for the channel, Timms said when partners can demonstrate their skills around dynamic infrastructure, IBM will provide them with a number of things to provide them a better opportunity in the marketplace, and a unique selling advantage to bring to their clients.

“The beauty for partners is not just what we offer them under the program, but that it is also stuff that’s much higher margin,” said Timms. “This is truly a cross-brand offering – hardware, software, services – the whole gambit.”

While hardware margins are in the low single digits, Timms said under DI, by adding services and software, partners will be looking at margins of 20 to 30 per cent.

Benefits under the program, which are being expanded from the NEDC benefits, include business development funds, assistance with pre-sale, making sure partners have the skills to do assessments, education vouchers, ensuring partners have “top-notch” service delivery skills, and branding to designate their elite level of certification with customers. Other benefits will include education days for mentoring at IBM’s software development labs, access to deals, and other resources.

Timms said there will be two levels under DI, based on whether partners have either Advanced or Premier partner status with IBM, and the number of resources and specialty skills or certifications they have on staff. Business development funds available annually to partners will be either $25,000 or $100,000, depending on partner level, and can be spent on anything from training, marketing campaigns and market intelligence to even staff salaries.

“We really want to equip partners to go out and sell into these kinds of environments where customers have this kind of need, particularly in this economy,” said Timms.

All partners that were certified under NEDC will have that carried over to DI. Timms said some 150 partners have already achieved the certification globally, a number that’s growing monthly. In Canada, there are currently five to six partners, with a number of others in the queue.

With DI playing across the breadth of the IBM portfolio, Timms said some partners already had the skills to leverage the opportunity, while others have had to shore-up their expertise in different areas. In Canada, however, he said there’s a strong nucleus of services expertise that has served Canadian partners well.

“There’s some partners doing really well at it, and we’re really going to leverage those partners to the max,” said Timms. “We’ve got others that I think are on the verge, and over the next year we can get them to the next level. There are others that are more laggers, focused on hardware, and it will be difficult for them to carry-on with margins in hardware being relatively low.”

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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