IBM Targets Data Center with Channel Partners

Vendor announces plan to develop and deepen solutions competencies of partners. Company offers sales, marketing and technical guidance, as well as up to $100,000 in MDF funds.

October 8, 2008

Al Senia

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IBM  (NYSE:IBM) is rolling out a new global program designed to helped business partners focus more effectively on providing data center transformation for midsize and large business customers.

The New Enterprise Data Center plan targets between 100 and 200 channel partners with new sales, marketing and technical expertise that company officials believe will change the focus of their businesses from data center products to services. Specifically, the goal is to improve solution selling skills in three key areas: virtualization/consolidation, energy efficiency and business resiliency.

The program includes upfront payments for channel partners in business development activities including certification; mentoring services from IBM researchers on new technologies; increased sales support from IBM; and market development funds (MDF) payments of $25,000 to $100,000 for channel partners who achieve accreditation in certain solution areas specified by IBM.

"This is a new business partner program that is based on developing deep skills around infrastructure solutions," said Bruce Maule, director of business partner programs and plans for IBM. "The focus is on reducing costs and having business partners involved in more effective implementations."

The program is based on input IBM received from its business partner councils. It is motivated by IBM's finding in its 2008 Global CEO study that more than 80 percent of CEOs surveyed anticipate significant change in the marketplace during the next three years, but lack confidence in their ability to support the changes. Maule said IBM is trying to attract partners into the program who can bridge that gap.

"The ideal partner has service capability, as well as a broad product capability," Maule explained. "The program will be available to all partners who want to invest in their skills development, but the target is an existing (IBM) partner who we want to help move into a more solutions-oriented model."

Such business partners probably would need to invest "a few months" in solutions training involving 10 products that comprise the data center specialty. Partners achieving accreditation in one or more of the "solution areas" would be recognized by IBM as experts and awarded MDF funds between $25,000 and $100,000 that could be used to pay for the cost of the training. They would also gain access to education, marketing and sales support from IBM.  There are two program levels: Specialty and Specialty Elite, with the elite resellers making the deeper investment and mastering additional product and solutions expertise.

"We hope to increase our partners skills and capabilities so they can move to a higher value space with their existing business customers, as well as recruit new clients," Maule said. He said IBM would provide some sales leads as part of the program, but was relying on channel partners to use the skills gained to build new revenue opportunities with midsized and large businesses planning to modify their data centers during the next five years.

(Al Senia is managing editor of ITChannelPlanet.com.)

TAGS: IBM,virtualization,marketing,data center,channel partners

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