Arrow ECS Taps Into IBM Program To Boost Hardware-Software Solution Sales

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Arrow Enterprise Computing Solutions is assembling a program that will encourage resellers to cooperatively sell solutions that incorporate IBM hardware and software products.

The initiative will leverage the IBM Solution Accelerator program IBM launched at its PartnerWorld Leadership Conference in New Orleans last month. That program offers financial incentives to channel partners to sell systems that combine IBM hardware and software products, particularly solutions targeting such areas as cloud computing, security and business analytics.

One element of the IBM program is enlisting distributors such as Arrow to play matchmaker by leveraging the rebates to bring together VARs who can jointly build and sell hardware-software solutions.

[Related: Avnet Launches Program To Augment Partners Services Capabilities]

"This has been a challenge forever – to get resellers to sell hardware and software together," said Shannon McWilliams, director of software sales at Arrow Enterprise Computing Solutions, in an interview.

(In another sign that distributors are adopting more solution-selling practices, Avnet said Monday it is acquiring Austin-based VAR Ascendant Technology. Ascendant is a major IBM channel partner and the move is expected to boost Avnet's SolutionsPath business.)

While selling more hardware-software solutions has long been a goal for IT vendors, McWilliams said the key element here is that IBM "is putting more money into the deal."

Under the IBM plan resellers can earn incremental rebates of 5 percent on eligible hardware and 15 percent on eligible software when they sell the products together to a single customer. Selling hardware-software packages to IBM's target initiatives can bring an additional 10 rebate.

IBM is developing some 25 "target solution" hardware-software packages in such areas as business analytics, security, cloud computing, risk management and business social networks, McWilliams said. Examples include combining IBM's Cognos business analytics application with IBM server and storage hardware, and a social networking bundle with IBM's Connections application with System x or Power System servers.

Arrow ECS plans to select around 10 of those and highlight them at the distributor's MayDays conference for resellers in Atlanta and provide training workshops on the bundles. That way Arrow ECS can "cross-pollinate" software partners, which he said tend to be smaller, with larger hardware resellers.

The IBM program includes compensation for distributors to help cover such expenses as order processing, product handling, marketing and tracking partner rebates, McWilliams said. Overall about 25 percent of the incentives go to distributors and 75 percent to partners.

Arrow has practice leaders in such areas as business analytics, security and storage optimization that will help partners market the practice-specific bundles, McWilliams said.

The Arrow executive said it's too early to forecast sales generated by the IBM program ("We're still in 'building-the-process' mode," he said). But he said it should appeal to active Arrow partners who already understand the benefits of solution selling.

"We anticipate the top 30 or 40 percent of our channel will take advantage of this, which would be a huge success," he said. Based on the level of interest expressed by partners already, "This could be one of the most popular programs IBM has announced in several years."

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