IBM Puts Muscle Behind MSP Recruiting Efforts


IBM is stepping up its efforts to recruit managed service providers to its PartnerWorld channel partner program, launching a number of initiatives Wednesday to provide MSPs with marketing and sales support and financing options.

The company, which already has some 1,400 MSPs among its partner ranks, is positioning the move as part of its broader efforts to help partners and customers capitalize on cloud computing opportunities.

"This will be a significant portion of the $100 million we're investing in our midmarket business," said Ed Abrams, IBM marketing vice president for midmarket, in an interview. He was referring to the $100 million IBM has committed to spend annually on midmarket channel marketing and demand-generation initiatives.

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IBM has put increased emphasis on MSPs this year, seeing them as an effective channel for selling its IBM SmartCloud software and services, its business analytics applications, its Tivoli line of systems management tools, and the PureSystems integrated servers the company launched earlier this year.

The Armonk, N.Y., vendor is actively recruiting MSPs to its partner program and is adding 30 to 35 every week, according to Mike McClurg, IBM vice president of global midmarket sales. It also is helping more traditional VARs add managed services to their portfolios, he said.

Among IBM's MSP partners are Perimeter, Symmetry, Velocity, CenterBeam, Oxford Networks, Peer 1 Hosting and Connectria.

IBM is offering a number of marketing and sales support initiatives tailored for MSPs, including funding for brand-building and demand generation. Abrams said IBM would help MSP partners develop marketing plans, run workshops to teach MSPs how to use social media to build their brands, and provide access to IBM analytics to identify sales opportunities.

IBM is assembling four "global centers of excellence" in Shanghai, Tokyo, New York City, and Ehningen, Germany, to provide technical support for MSPs, such as helping them develop services and solutions for specific industries on IBM platforms. The centers also will be used to provide training for MSPs, McClurg said, and help them connect with IBM ISV partners.

On the financing side MSPs can buy IBM technology and services under new payment plans through IBM Global Financing, including a 12-month, zero-interest loan for IBM servers, storage systems and software.

IBM is also providing a single-point-of-contact -- what Abrams called an "MSP concierge" -- to help MSP partners navigate through the new programs. McClurg said IBM is designating "a couple of hundred people" within the company to specifically work with MSPs.

"These new initiatives launched by IBM are unfolding new opportunities for our organization not only to create new business opportunities with clients but also seize the opportunity to expand our global reach," said Craig Gunderson, CEO of Oxford Networks, a Lewiston, Maine-based MSP, in a staement. "The combination of IBM's technical expertise and focus on helping clients drive innovation with advanced technologies and its marketing engine will enable us to move beyond our traditional client base and reach new markets."

"We think we've got a really complete set of offerings for MSPs here," McClurg said. While the centers of excellence are still being assembled, the other programs are largely in place, he said.

The IBM executives declined to disclose sales forecasts associated with the MSP initiatives.

PUBLISHED SEPT. 26, 2012