IBM Asks Channel To Embrace Linux, Flash, And Software-Defined Storage

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IBM closed out its global partner conference Wednesday by encouraging its channel partners to sell a variety of hardware systems, anchored by Linux and hardened by a comprehensive security portfolio.

Tom Rosamilia, senior vice president of IBM Systems, told attendees of the PartnerWorld Leadership Conference in Orlando that a number of cutting-edge systems, including the z13s entry-level mainframe introduced the previous day, would empower IBM partners to be the disruptors in the market.

Competitors are coming at partners from all sides, Rosamilia warned, and the most dangerous are those that aren't even considered to be competitors. That's the nature of digital disruption, he said.

[Related: IBM's Rometty Slams Competitors With 'Yesterday's Business Model,' Spotlights Cognitive Era As Future Disruptor]

On Tuesday, IBM unveiled the z13s, a stripped down version of the z13 mainframe that Big Blue debuted last year. That mainframe is the first tailored to mid-market and small businesses.

The z13, a system for large customers such as banks and airlines, was the first mainframe capable of simultaneously running analytics while executing transactions, IBM told CRN, and the z13s inherits those traits.

And LinuxONE, a version of the z13 devoted exclusively to the open-source operating system, creates unique opportunities for partners to focus on the Linux ecosystem, he said. IBM is adding Canonical's Ubuntu Linux distribution to compliment the current Red Hat and SUSE options that have been available for many years.

"This is the fastest-growing operating system and platform in the world right now," Rosamilia said of Linux. "We've embraced it on all of our platforms, all of our software, all of our solutions."

Mainframes aren't the only way to embrace Linux. 

"When we pivoted toward Linux, we also made a profound pivot to open up to the ecosystem," Rosamilia said.

Rosamilia said partners should also pay attention to blockchain, which he described as the fastest-growing Linux project ever.

Blockchain, which creates a consensus ledger of digital events, has applications that extend well beyond Bitcoin, the digital currency with which the technology has become closely associated.

At least one partner whose CEO has long been familiar with IBM sees the future with Big Blue - and is encouraged.

Dan Pompilio, founder and CEO of Atlanta-based SimpleC, a cloud-based startup developing mental health care systems, is building cutting-edge solutions on Big Blue's platform.

Pompilio worked at IBM until 1992. But the company hosting the conference is almost unrecognizable from the one that employed him decades ago, at least as far as its solutions portfolio.

"The one thing that's similar is the hardware," he said. "But what's dissimilar is how open it is."

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