For the IBM partners CRN interviewed, Lenovo and its channel program are mostly unknowns. When asked about overlap between IBM and Lenovo channel partners, and the number of x86 IBM partners that might become Lenovo partners after the sale, IBM declined to answer.
"I cannot argue with IBM's logic [in selling off the x86 business]. It makes sense for them to follow the industry to the cloud and off-premise computing. But for companies where Intel is still a core part of their strategy it's going to be a hard pill to swallow. For IBM partners like myself, we want to know what Lenovo's long-range plans for embracing the channel are," said Tom Hughes, director of alliances for Technology Solutions Group of Ciber, a Greenwood Village, Colo.-based IBM Premier partner ranked No. 37 on CRN's Solution Provider 500 list.
In an earlier interview with CRN, Lenovo channel chief Chris Frey was reticent to dive into channel specifics for IBM or Lenovo partners: "Once the deal has been approved, I can come back to you and tell you a lot more of how we are going to enable Lenovo/IBM partners ... Certainly a lot is going to be different, and we'll give our partners everything they need to be successful. But it's far too early right now to get specific," Frey said.
One large IBM partner with $2.5 billion in annual sales, who asked not to be identified, told CRN that his shrinking base of IBM x86 business customers are already expressing uncertainty about their reliance on IBM x86 hardware, and say they are considering moving their Big Blue business to rivals such as Hewlett-Packard and Dell. "We are a technology-driven company. We can't make the wrong bet. If IBM has decided to no longer support a product, we need to know. Are there any assurances that Lenovo will maintain the IBM product lines? Is IBM or Lenovo going to offer contract support in 12 months or two years?"
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