IBM Preps Cloud Partner Program, Targets Cloud Service Providers

IBM is preparing to launch a cloud computing-specific partner program early next year, but the Armonk, N.Y.-based tech giant isn't spilling details of the program just yet.

Word of Big Blue's full-fledged cloud partner program came Thursday as IBM launched a new cloud computing platform for telcos, ISPs and communications service providers (CSPs) called the IBM Cloud Service Provider Platform.

"Providers that adopt IBM Cloud Service Provider Platform will receive new support and benefits to help them access the IBM partner ecosystem to extend, market, enable and sell their cloud services," IBM said in the announcement for the new platform. "These new benefits are available immediately and will be formally rolled out early next year as part of a broader new cloud partner program."

Drew Clark, director of strategy for IBM's Venture Capital Group, said the program on tap for next year will be much more structured than the current model and designed to accommodate channel partners and technology partners. Additional program details were not available Thursday.

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"There are a lot of things we're rolling out in stages," he said. "There are going to be things we're announcing next year."

Next: IBM's New Cloud Service Provider Platform

At its start, IBM's Cloud Service Provider Platform will include nine partners, which Clark called value-added service partners and partners that enhance the new Cloud Service Provider Platform.

"It's an ecosystem of partners adding value on top of the platform and enhancing the platform itself," he said.

So far, partners that have signed on with the new platform include VoIP and communications provider Broadsoft; software development and SaaS player Corent Technology; location-based services provider deCarta; on-demand services aggregator and distributor Jamcracker; networking vendor Juniper Networks; storage and data management company NetApp; policy management and billing provider Openet; cloud management platform RightScale; and cloud and Web application development platform WaveMaker. Several cloud builders; application, technology and infrastructure providers; resellers and solution providers; and cloud aggregators will also take advantage of the platform, IBM said. These partners, Clark said, have access to IBM's channel and its go-to-market strategy.

With the IBM Cloud Service Provider Platform, IBM is looking to bring service providers on board with cloud computing and give them a chance to grab a piece of a growing market, which could hit $89 billion by 2015, IBM estimated.

The platform, which is aimed squarely at service providers, ties together hardware, software and services for communications providers to deliver cloud services to their customers while also enabling them to launch new applications and services on their infrastructure such as collaboration applications, customer relationship management services, data storage, backup and recovery, and industry-specific applications like claims-processing or specialized mobile applications. IBM's Service Delivery Manager technology powers the platform. The Service Delivery Manager is also at the core of IBM's CloudBurst private cloud offerings. The software enables swift deployment of applications and can automate the deployment, monitoring and management of cloud computing services. The platform will let service providers provision tens of thousands of virtual machines hourly and run millions of VMs concurrently.

Next: Meeting Service Provider Expectations

IBM said the new service provider platform can reduce the time it takes to launch partner services from six months to six weeks and lets CSPs launch partner applications and services like unified communications, collaboration, field force management and sales tracking and CRM applications. Providers can also offer a development and test cloud and can deliver infrastructure services.

IBM is currently piloting the new IBM Service Provider Platform with global providers like France Telecom, Shanghai Telecom and SK Telecom.

"The expectation since the cloud first emerged a couple of years ago is that CSPs would be key players," Clark said, adding that early on most cloud computing platforms weren't billed as carrier class. "What you see is a lot of consumer facing plays, but now what the carriers are looking for."

Clark said carriers face high expectations in the cloud, as customers demand 24 by 7 connectivity and robust offerings.

"Carriers have pretty high standards," he said. "For a lot of our carriers, this fits well with what they want to do. It makes them more than a deliverer of just voice and data."