IBM Pushes Dynamic Infrastructure Certifications to Mid-Market Partners

By D.H. Kass

May 15, 2009

IBM Corp. said that since introducing its Dynamic Infrastructure solutions platform in February it has paid out about $1 million in support funds to 25 newly certified channel partners and aims to deliver badges to another 125 before the year is out.

Bruce Maule, IBM worldwide director of partner programs, said that the certifications underscore the vendor’s strategy to steer its channel partners toward the mid-market toting a raft of integrated, cost-conscious solutions.

"We’re trying to help partners draw the mid-market out further," Maule said. "Our customers have a single-minded concern now on containing and reducing costs. We’re helping our partners build the skills to deliver solutions to the mid-market that saves money for their customers."

Of the 25 recently certified partners, five have attained elite level, garnering each about $100,000 in market development funds from the vendor. Elite status requires partners to employ eight certified individuals, four with sales pins and four holding technical certifications.

The remaining 20 partners have achieved specialty level and been granted $25,000 a piece in support money. The specialty bar requires two sales and two technical individuals to hold certifications.

Among the certified channel partners are MSI Systems Integrators Inc., Key Info Systems, Meridian IT Inc., thinkASG, Sycomp, Levi, Ray & Shoup Inc., Futuregen Co. Ltd., ABF Data Systems and Mainline Information Systems Inc.

Maule said that IBM expects to pay out an additional $6 million this year to help partners defray the cost of education and training to realize the certifications. The vendor figures that by the end of the year it will have certified a total of 40 partners at the elite level and another 110 at the specialty designation.

"We’ve put our investment in partner education around financial issues such as cost containment and reduction," Maule said. "The business development fund is part of a partner’s return-on-investment. Some partners say it’s not enough but in the big picture the move to solution selling is more lucrative once they make it. We purposely didn’t want to make the financial reward for certification too high," he said.

IBM plans to certify as many as 400 of its business partners worldwide under the Dynamic Infrastructure program, Maule said. "We don’t want to set the expectation that every partner should do this because it requires a significant investment," he said. "For partners that don’t have that business model it doesn’t mean we’re not interested in them, it’s that we want to go to the mid-market space with partners who have skills to execute in this environment."

Maule said that IBM expects its roster of channel partners certified under the Dynamic Infrastructure program to evangelize its benefits to the IBM community. He noted that additions to the offerings such as the new Internet security systems certification help to promote it to channel members. "Business partners can choose hardware, software and services certifications to qualify," he said.

Charles King, president and principal analyst at Pund-It Research said that IBM’s certification push is particularly important to its chances in the mid-market. "Dynamic Infrastructure is not a simple strategy because it requires a systematic view of business processes," King said. "Where partners can be valuable to IBM is a hands-on approach with clients to help them identify their infrastructure and cost efficiency issues and find ways to solve them."

Meridian IT, a Deerfield, Ill.-based solution provider and IBM channel partner, earlier this month completed virtualization and consolidation certification under the program. Tom Horan, Meridian vice president, services, said that the "dynamic infrastructure approach aligns perfectly with our consultative approach."

Horan said that the certification helped Meridian tie its own initiatives closer to IBM’s. "Overall, it builds credibility for our ability to deliver the right solutions for our customers," he said.

Another solution provider, Irvine, CA-based thinkASG, an IBM premier-level Business Partner, said that the certifications enable it to present a specific profile to customers of cost and performance awareness. "Our expertise and skills will now be easily identified by businesses looking for a technology partner to help them reduce cost, reduce risk and improve service," said Pete Coticchia, thinkASG chief operating officer.

Coticchia said that Meridian IT completed its certifications about two months ago. "The Dynamic Infrastructure certification program allowed us to refresh our skills in solutions that matter to customers such as business resilience, business continuity, energy efficiency and virtualization," he said.