IBM channel partners are in transition, adding software and services to their hardware offerings and evolving beyond product reselling to providing managed services to customers.
Seeking guidance on those and other issues in the IBM ecosphere, more than 1,500 IBM channel partners are heading to Las Vegas to attend the vendor's annual PartnerWorld Leadership Conference (PWLC) next week.
Many, especially smaller partners, are simply seeking face time with IBM execs. "You have all the decision makers in one place at one time," said Ernie Yenke, president of Lighthouse Computer Services, a Lincoln, R.I.-based IBM premier business partner.
"It's the one-on-one meetings with IBM execs we get the most out of," agreed Michael Gray, chief operating officer of Champion Solutions Group, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based partner. In addition to getting the low-down on what's up at IBM, Gray said those meetings provide an opportunity to introduce his company to the execs.
IBM has placed increased emphasis on managed service providers in the last year -- both recruiting new MSPs as partners and helping current reseller partners add managed services to their offerings. Some partners will be looking for more information on what this means for them.
IBM's managed services strategy, as it relates to reseller partners, has largely focused on getting them to sell more hardware and infrastructure products, said Mark Wyllie, CEO of Flagship Solutions Group, a partner that's also based in Boca Raton, Fla. Flagship has been transitioning from selling hardware infrastructure to providing managed services such as IT monitoring and service desk operations -- today the company's sales split is about 50 percent hardware and 50 percent services.
Wyllie has been talking with IBM about using the vendor's Tivoli IT management tools to assist with those services. He'd like to see IBM create more packaged, pre-integrated software products that MSPs can offer as services to their customers.
As IBM's roster of MSP partners grows, Gray at Champion Solutions Group said he'd like to hear from IBM how the company plans to bring the MSP and traditional reseller communities together. "It's the changing dynamics of the IBM partner ecosystem," he said.
Hardware remains a big part of many IBM partners' businesses, and several channel partners want to learn more about IBM's plans for its PureSystems converged infrastructure servers. "It's a great solution. On the hardware side, it's a big focus for us," said Yenke at Lighthouse, which has nine PureSystems certified employees. "IBM's bet a ton on it."
But some partners said that sales of PureSystems, introduced nearly a year ago, have been slower than IBM had hoped. "IBM's got to get its Pure message solidified and out there into the market," Gray agreed, noting tough competition from Cisco's Unified Computing System servers and NetApp's Flexpod systems.
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