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Solution providers at the conference say they recognize the value of the new incentives.
"This will help us make additional margins and it will help us bring price points down so that more customers…can afford these solutions," said Dan Bivona, sales director at Vormittag Associates, an IBM partner.
Saying the word "solutions" is often overused, Mark Wyllie, CEO of IBM partner Flagship Solutions Group, said, "this kind of a program puts a lot of meaning in the word 'solutions' because it does provide an incentive for the business partner -- and probably the end user because [of lower prices] -- to integrate multiple technologies."
The channel accounts for about 50 percent of IBM's server and data storage hardware sales. But only about 15 percent of its software sales are made through the channel, according to Wilfredo Sotolongo, IBM vice president of business partner & mid-market sales, in an interview.
The new IBM Solution Accelerator initiative is the latest of a number of efforts IBM has launched in recent years to encourage channel partners to upgrade their skills through IBM "specialization" certifications and sell more complete, higher-value systems with more services.
More than 5,000 IBM partners have undergone certification to win "specialty" status under the vendor's Software Value Plus program.
Addressing the 1,000-plus partners at the conference Tuesday, Mills said the rebates should help partners who are "struggling to make the [needed] investments to move to higher-value spaces. Clearly the added margin is designed to give that leverage in your financials on making those investments and building more skills.
"We think it's a great incentive," he said. "The time is right to do this. And I believe it's going to bring a lot of value to all of us in 2012."
IBM also hopes the new rebates will encourage channel partners to work together: Those that primarily resell hardware can pool their expertise and resources with partners with software expertise to create higher-value systems, Mills said. And VADs can likewise leverage the rebates to pull together teams of solution providers to build more complete systems.
To encourage partners to make sales referrals for IBM cloud services, partners that provide referrals for IBM's Intelligent Operations Cloud Center and Smarter Commerce cloud applications will be rewarded with 15 percent of the value of annual subscriptions.