The Support Net Division of Arrow Electronics opened its first WebSphere Innovation Center (WIC) this week.
The center, located in Support Net's education center here, allows solution providers to build and test solutions around IBM's WebSphere software, said Eric Williams, executive vice president of Support Net.
It will serve as an important hands-on facility for midmarket solution providers participating in IBM's new software program, Value Advantage Plus, one component of IBM's $500 million investment in channel enablement activities and demand-generation tools aimed at penetrating the small- and midsize-business markets, Williams said. The center will include IBM PCs networked to iSeries, pSeries and xSeries servers.
"We've been looking at doing this for probably the last year. We had to [look at] the revenue expectations, what it would mean to our business," Williams said. "It's another way for us to pool an investment. The reality is that if a partner has its own [WIC], it will not get fully utilized."
IBM has about 24 WICs worldwide, including16 in North America, said Mike Colleary, vice president of software channel and SMB sales for Americas software at IBM.
"It seems like it would be fairly easy to open a WIC, but it takes a substantial amount of investment, resources and planning," Colleary said. "It's becoming part of our overall infrastructure. What it does for partners is provide a value-add for customers. You can tell customers about WebSphere--you can try to sell customers--but can you do proof of concept? Now you can."
The WICs were created because IBM projected that it would not be able to handle an expected rise in WebSphere revenue, particularly to SMB customers.
"It's working, and it's working well," Colleary said. "There's a lot of interest in WebSphere, particularly in our new Express offerings designed for SMB. It's not only functional and has ease of use; it's also priced for that part of the market."