One on one with IBM global channel chief Marc Dupaquier

Marc Dupaquier
Marc Dupaquier

LAS VEGAS — After about two years as global channel chief at IBM Corp., Mark Hennessy moved on to a new role with Big Blue early last month. Enter Marc Dupaquier.

A 29-year IBM veteran, Dupaquier is now IBM’s top man in the channel, replacing Hennesy as general manager, IBM global business partners. In just his second month on the top, Dupaquier found himself hosting IBM’s PartnerWorld leadership conference, the event where IBM annually gathers the senior executives from its top business partners from around the world.

He takes the channel helm at a time when IBM is in transition, divesting its x86 server business to Lenovo, and maintaining a legacy in hardware while making a major shift around three key growth areas – cloud computing, mobility and engagement. Some partners are leaving IBM with the Lenovo deal, and others are wondering where they fit in the new IBM.

Dupaquier sat down with CDN at PartnerWorld to discuss all this, and more. The following is an edited transcript of our conversation.

CDN: This is your first PWLC as channel chief, but you noted this is not your first PWLC. What’s your background in the channel?

Dupaquier: “I’ve been working with the channel extensively for some time, but my major experience in the channel was leading the channel organization for IBM software in the early 2000s, when we started to create a value-add channel. It was a very interesting time. I was the first channel leader for IBM software, as we used to have a lot of different channel leaders, for Tivoli (and each of IBM’s other software businesses). It was a great experience. We created programs suited to the value-added partners that are still used today, and fostered a strong belief in training and skills certification. It’s very hard to sell software if you don’t have the skills. Then I led the System I business for IBM, which is only sold through partners. And I was general manager for midmarket from 2007 to 2010; during this time we moved all midmarket clients less than 1000 employee to be partner-only. So basically I’ve always worked with business partners over the last 10-12 years. Every job I’ve had was business-partner facing and centric in some way.

CDN: In your keynote, you spoke about the need for partners to be ambidextrous. Do you think most of your legacy partners will be able to make the leap from hardware to add software and services?

Dupaquier: “I think they will. It all depends. I believe many will. I’m basing this on our experience when we built our software channel. When we started the software business it was initially a small number of software partners; then we wanted to expand it to our hardware partners, and it worked. Sirius was on the stage this morning, they were only selling hardware, and just one product, and now they’re one of our largest software partners. Most of the partners that didn’t move, they disappeared. On the Intel product base, we have a number of partners that only sell System X from IBM; they sell other vendors, but only X from IBM. If they just want to resale commodity hardware their business model doesn’t align with IBM’s anyway. And those people aren’t here (at PWLC).”

CDN: Is there a role for value-added distribution in building the channel capacity you’ll need?

Dupaquier: “There is a role, around access to market and enablement. Knowing who a cloud reseller may be; they’re very different than a hardware reseller. How many of these partners can they bring, and enable them to explain the differentiation of SoftLayer, and why SoftLayer is better. That’s exactly what we want our resellers to be able to engage our clients around. (Value-added distributors) can bring access to market and skill development.”

CDN: What’s the profile of the new kind of partner you’re going to need? Who are they working with today?

Dupaquier: “When I made my opening comments I welcome 200 partners that are here for the first time. Many of them are what we call born in the cloud solution providers. They’re selling services in the cloud. Many are industry specialists. One I met yesterday does digital medical archiving. There’s a need at small to mid-sized medical practices for archiving of medical imagery, and they developed a solution built on IBM software, storage and services that they can replicate again and again. That’s the kind of partner you’ll see: very solution-centric, as well as cloud solution partners.”

CDN: Why should partners be excited about your SoftLayer acquisition? How are they not just another hosting company?

Dupaquier: “For now, you have thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people providing cloud services. When the car industry started you had hundreds of car companies in every country. Every who liked engineering would make his own car, and that’s what’s happening with cloud services. What eventually happened in the car industry was there was a natural consolidation, and this will happen in the cloud. There will have to be a market consolidation.

You’ll have cloud brokers. Someone will have to power the cloud. There will be a few major players, and we believe IBM will be one of them. How do you differentiate then? On technology and ability to scale. We acquired SoftLayer because we felt they have this unique approach, not cloud on virtualization but on baremetal data. They own their own network and they always know where the data is, unlike some other providers. Go try selling cloud to banks if you don’t know where their data is always. We believe SoftLayer will emerge as a leader, pushed by IBM, because their technology is very strong. It’s not just another cloud provider, but truly one of the leaders.”

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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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