IBM wants partners to specialize in the cloud

Orlando – There’s no avoiding the cloud today, and IBM Corp.‘s (NYSE:IBM) PartnerWorld Leadership conference is certainly no exception. With more and more partners looking to ride the cloud wave, IBM announced a Cloud Computing Speciality on Tuesday that can help differentiate partners in the market.

The Cloud Computing Speciality supports five solution areas for different cloud partner types: cloud application providers deliver applications and services through the cloud, cloud builders engage in consultative and solution selling with IBM offerings, cloud infrastructure providers provide a public cloud that application vendors can host solutions on, cloud services solution providers have an established cloud practice leveraging IBM offerings, and cloud technology providers provide tools, services and technologies for other IBM partners and IBM customers leveraging the cloud.

For an option with slightly fewer certification requirements, IBM is also launching a Cloud Computing Authorization for cloud-focused software business partners. The specialization is available now, while the authorization program opens in May.

Cloud computing and security are the first technology-focused specializations under IBM’s software value plus (SVP) program. Shaun Jones, vice-president, business partner marketing in IBM’s software group, told CDN SVP launched two years ago in response to a partner desire to differentiate with customers and grow their businesses around skill. Product-group specializations launched a year ago, followed by industry vertical-focused specializations in November. Now, cloud and security are the next step.

“There’s a journey here, from products, to industries, to cross-functional things,” said Jones. “Partners like to be recognized for their skills, and customers like to see this in front of them.”

These authorizations aren’t easy to earn, said Jones. A partner needs to demonstrate proven customer and technology experience to a peer board before getting approved for the specialization. There’s a revenue requirement as well, but more important, said Jones, is the industry or speciality knowledge and the supporting technology expertise.

In addition to the branding, partners with the cloud specialization gain access to specialized IBM cloud computing marketing and sales support, road-map and strategy information, business development funding and increased margin, in addition to other benefits.

Chris Clinton, senior vice-president, global global channel management with TradeCard, a New York-based IBM partner specializing in hosted supply chain management, said the cloud specialization will allow his company to get trained up more quickly on cloud technologies.

“This will allow us to take our sales and marketing folks and get us through all the great training and mentorship that IBM can offer us. We’re a small company; we don’t have the resources to do this ourselves,” said Clinton.

He added it’s also really important to get access to insider information on IBM’s cloud strategy. With TradeCard relying on DB2 and WebSphere as the core of their business, Clinton said this will allow them to innovate and grow revenue.

“This IBM Cloud Specialization program is by far one of the best I’ve seen,” said Clinton. “Where do you ever find just one program in a cloud speciality program?”

The specialization is an important step said James Alexander, senior vice-president with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group, and one he expects more and more vendors to follow. It addresses a number of key points, namely how the cloud is changing the economic model for partners and how they make money, the skills partners need to bring to the table to effectively sell cloud computing into their customers, and the value paradigm around why the cloud model can make sense for certain customers.

“I think there’s a recognition IBM is willing to invest to address that, and I think there’s a recognition they’re trying to understand the different components of the ecosystem, and I think all of that’s good,” said Alexander. “But at the end of the day, like most things it will only be as good as its execution. A great execution always trumps a great idea.”

Other new offerings

In addition to cloud computing, IBM is also looking to help partners tap opportunity around analytics with its new IBM Cognos Express Planner analytics software. Designed for mid-market organizations, it helps users drive a more integrated, automated and collaborative approach to financial planning, performance and resource utilization. Several new training programs are also available.

Finally, IBM launched several new systems designed to address the growing issue of data centre efficiency and the growing volume of data in organizations. The new offerings span IBM’s systems portfolio across chips, hardware and software. They include zEnterprise System with added support for IBM WebSphere DataPower Integration Appliance x150. In storage, there’s the new IBM Storwize Rapid Application Storage solution. There’s a new, ready-to-deploy, pre-configured eX5 Blade System for database applications, and new systems networking offerings through IBM’s acquisition of Blade Network Technologies.

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.

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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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