Within the halls of IBM these days, the No. 1 competitive topic on everybody's mind is competing with EMC. Last year the No. 1 enemy was Sun Microsystems, but as we move into 2005, EMC has emerged at the top of the strategic enemy's list.
And heading up the IBM posse to take out EMC is Denise Buonaiuto, vice president of global business partner sales for IBM's Systems and Technology Group.
Buonaiuto may not be the most famous IBMer on the planet, but she is one tough cookie from New Jersey that is completely focused on packaging storage and systems sales.
And that is the strategic EMC weakness, combined with some gaps in its virtualization software portfolio, that IBM hopes to exploit in 2005.
For years, EMC has been able to successfully sell storage as a separate product apart from servers, at IBM's expense. What is changing, says Buonaiuto, is that IBM and its partners have learned to lead with storage and then use that conversation to pull servers.
And one of the primary reasons that IBM thinks it can win head on against EMC in storage is its SAN Volume Controller. That product allows IT organizations to treat storage as one virtual asset across the network, but unlike rival offerings it will work across IBM, EMC, Hewlett-Packard and Hitachi systems.
By leveraging that product--plus giving customers total solutions that include storage and servers when appropriate--Buonaiuto is pretty sure that IBM can gain three points of market share in the storage space, primarily at EMC's expense. Of course, Buonaiuto is not all that discriminatory, so if some of that market share gain comes at the expense of HP or Hitachi, so be it.
One thing for sure is that IBM channel partners have already benefited from IBM's desire to take out EMC. Beyond just talking about competing with EMC, IBM--at Buonaiuto's urging--helped fund the development of storage technology centers at partner sites by picking up half the cost and giving them free, early access to software.
Now IBM is helping to fund the building of Business Partner Innovation Centers, where partners can show customers a vast array of IBM products spanning hardware and software. Those centers can either be built by the partners or rented from IBM Global Services, which has already built several of these centers.
Either way, the goal is to put an end to "nudity" in the channel, because there is nothing more abhorrent to Buonaiuto than a "naked" transaction. And woe to IBM partners that just sell one product in a deal, for they are sure to get a call from Buonaiuto wanting to know what their problem is with the rest of the cloth sold by IBM. Because when all is said and done, solutions that span multiple product categories are what really makes Buonaiuto's day at IBM.