XChange 2010: IBM Counts On Software As Key Digital Future


That's the word from Shaun Jones, vice president of IBM software and worldwide business partner and midmarket marketing, who used his Tuesday keynote at Everything Channel's XChange Solution Provider conference to urge solution providers to look to software, integrated hardware-software appliances, and cloud computing to help customers manage their increasingly complex IT environments.

Customers are increasingly less dependent on partners' IT skills, and are looking more for consulting services, industry experience, and a solutions focus, Jones said.

They are also looking for smarter ways to manage infrastructures that are under pressure from new technologies and which are not future-proofed, Jones said.

For instance, businesses experienced a 10-fold increase in digital data growth from 2007 to 2011, with 80 percent of that growth coming from unstructured data which requires a focused effort to analyze and understand.

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At the same time, IBM expects there will be 1 trillion devices connected to the Internet by 2011, with 500,000,000 GBs, or a half-zetabyte, of data traffic going over the Internet by 2013.

"That's, what, a '5' with 21 zeros," he said. "That's what we are all trying to manage."

Software from companies like IBM is important for unlocking hidden opportunities from such growth in such areas as databases, security and risk management, collaboration, and global integration, Jones said.

At the same time, IBM is building hardware bundled with software in combinations specific to certain workloads. For instance, IBM has new Power7 processor-based servers with its DB2 database software that offer lower costs than Oracle RAC (Real Application Clusters) on Nehalem-based servers, Jones said, or its new Power 750 server with SAP applications and DB2 supporting three times the number of users that can work with Oracle software running on a SPARC server.

IBM is also offering appliances which integrate software such as WebSphere, Lotus Foundations, Tivoli Foundations, and business intelligence applications as a way to ease customers' management issues, he said.

IBM is also working on ways for solution providers to take advantage of cloud computing as a way to help customers with management issues.

The company already offers hosted cloud offerings for software applications such as LotusLive, Computing on Demand, and Information Protection, and other applications for helping customers build cloud infrastructures, Jones said.

It is already helping educate solution providers on how to get started in cloud computing, and the company plans to offer some of the first cloud computing certification programs by mid-2010, he said.

IBM is also adding incentives to its software channel programs, increasing the amount of financing available to customers through partners, and helping partners implement new service models, Jones said.

Gordon Martin, president of Peak UpTime, a Tulsa, Okla.-based solution provider which does not work with IBM, said Jones was right in getting solution providers to focus more on the software side of the business. That's especially true in some markets, such as the energy sector, where companies rely heavily on older legacy systems.

While it is sometimes difficult to work in IBM environments from a software perspective because so many of the vendors' customers run on mainframes or AS/400 systems, Martin said he is intrigued by IBM's recent changes in channel strategy, including its decision to let its mid-market customers be handled exclusively by partners.

"Their messaging has been pretty consistent: They enable the channel to go out and compete," Martin said. "I absolutely want to talk to IBM about this."