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IBM tries to rock its partners

Promises to open services offerings,price systems more competitively



LAS VEGAS — In some ways it was fitting that a reconstituted Eagles rock group went back to the future to close this year’s annual IBM Partner-World conference.
It was an event where resellers embraced Lenovo of China, the new owner of IBM’s personal computing division, while being exhorted to boost

their sales of Big Blue’s personal computers before the deal closes.
Seeking a way to meet the increased challenges from Dell and Hewlett-Packard, IBM announced the System Seller program, which will have specially priced and configured servers and storage.
Hoping to turn partners’ backs on the reputation of IBM Global Services with the channel, the company promised a 180-degree shift in the division’s strategy to make it easier for VARs to resell IGS offerings.
As part of that initiative, it will pump US$300 million into what it calls Project Fusion, which will help partners sell services to small and medium businesses. The money will be spent on programs, consulting and education for VARs.
Particular targets will be regional systems integrators, who will be able to team up with IBM staff and get access to marketing and technical expertise.
There was even the lure of tickets to sports events.
No longer will IBM staff have the exclusive access to corporate tickets to IBM-sponsored events such as NFL games, the PGA tour and the Olympics. Now Premier partners will be able to “treat your clients to a truly memorable experience,” said Donn Atkins, general manager of business partners.
Atkins had reason to be generous. Last year IBM pulled in US$32 billion in revenue, up from US$29 billion the year before. Partners sold or influenced about a third of that, he said, a 20 per cent increase over 2003.
Canada had the highest year-over-year growth (in 2004) through business partners of the five regions in the Americas, said Gary Isaacs, IBM’s Canadian partners director.
Some products and services had more partner participation worldwide than others: For example, only five per cent of services had reseller involvement.
How much that will increase as partners increasingly either offer their own remote managed services or hosted services, or partner with Internet service providers, is a question.
Asked to comment on the company’s new IGS program, Dan Duffey, president of Mid-Range Computer Group of Markham, Ont., was cool, seeking more details. His company already offers outsourcing.
“We will look at it,” said Marc Beaulieu of Montreal’s Present Consulting Group, “but we have to know the price.”
Meanwhile, Don Henley and Glenn Frey crooned about a Peaceful Easy Feeling. Most partners felt that way.