IBM Arms Channel With New Cloud Services, Tools
Andrew R. Hickey
IBM is giving its channel partners and cloud providers new inroads to the cloud and a taste of the recurring revenue possibilities that come with it through a new set of partner-focused cloud products and services the tech giant says will help the channel attack the cloud market.
IBM's massive cloud push comes after the company launched its IBM Cloud Specialty Program, partner initiative unveiled in February that puts several cloud marketing and sales resources into a single program to help channel partners build, market and sell the cloud.
According to Rich Hume, general manager of IBM's Global Business Partners organization, the new offerings will help different types of cloud partners, including cloud solution providers, ISVs or cloud operators, to build out their cloud businesses and grab new revenue streams through private, public and hybrid cloud infrastructures; applications; and services. IBM is arming partners to tackle the cloud computing market, which Hume estimated will hit $150 billion in the near future.
IBM is also rapidly expanding the amount of partners that play in the cloud. According to Hume, Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM is seeing a very quick ramp to a high percentage of its customer-based offering some form of cloud computing solution. He said having 60 percent, 70 percent or 80 percent of IBM partners tackling cloud computing come mid-2012 is a "very reasonable estimate."
"They're all going to participate in one way or another," he said.
To bring partners into the cloud, IBM is planning to launch the SmartCloud Foundation, a family of private cloud offerings for designing and deploying private clouds with added control over service delivery and management. These private cloud plays are aimed squarely at SMBs that want cloud computing environments but have tight IT budgets.
According to Hume, IBM's full-scale cloud offering CloudBurst is a bit too sophisticated for some partners and clients, that want a way to enter the cloud market in a chronological fashion. With that in mind, IBM unveiled the IBM SmartCloud Entry cloud starter kit, a pre-packaged private-cloud software that offers simplified cloud administration, standardization of virtual machines and improved operations productivity through a self-service interface. The starter kit, Hume said, is the first step after virtualization and consolidation.
IBM also launched a new provisioning engine and image management system called IBM SmartCloud Provisioning, software that lets users create hundreds of virtual machines quickly and scale to more than 4,000 VMs in less than an hour.
And IBM SmartCloud Monitoring, a new cloud-based monitoring software, will provide more visibility into the performance of physical and virtual environments, including storage, network and server resources.
"These new offerings are in direct response to partners saying 'give us a chronological way forward,'" Hume said, noting that they take the shape of "more digestible modules."
He added: "All partners want to move into the cloud. What they need is the next step. These provide logical stepping stones to the full cloud solution."
The new offerings give partners a new revenue stream and let them take the step-by-step cloud journey with their clients, Hume said.
"This will provide partners with an annuity stream as they work with their customer-base," he said, adding that it opens the door to for new design, consulting and other services opportunities to bring customers into the cloud; services that have "substantially better" margins than hardware sales.
Next: IBM's New ISV Cloud Plays; Hybrid Cloud Integration
Next, Hume said IBM launched a pair of new services bundles that help ISVs tackle public cloud services. IBM SmartCloud Enterprise+ lets ISVs offer enterprise Infrastructure-as-a-Service including governance, administration and management control. And security and isolation options are built into the virtual infrastructure. IBM said it is tying tight SLAs into the SmartCloud Enterprise+. IBM also launched the beta for SmartCloud Application Services, which ISVs enable their enterprise applications as cloud services using secure and flexible tools.
Big Blue is also updating its existing IBM SmartCloud Enterprise play, adding a white label option for partners to cloud services based on SmartCloud Enterprise using their own brand. IBM is also adding import/export capabilities to ease cloud migration, offering increased storage for more data-intensive applications and enhancing the security for additional network isolation capabilities.
Additionally, IBM will also offer a Cloud Assessment tool to help companies determine their cloud readiness and pinpoint challenges that may hinder their cloud progress. The free tools are available to ISVs to prep their business model for the cloud.
And building on its acquisition of cloud application integration player Cast Iron Systems last year, IBM is also pulling the curtain off of Cast Iron Express, which leverages Cast Iron capabilities to let customers connect private clouds to public clouds, enabling a true hybrid cloud experience, Hume said.
Along with the new public and private cloud options, IBM is also launching new ways for partners to access cloud technologies and expertise, offering technical training and workshops for partners at its global cloud labs and IBM Innovation Centers.
Lastly, IBM's cloud push has spawned a collaboration with SugarCRM that makes its products available on the IBM SmartCloud Enterprise. Users can now leverage SugarCRM's CRM solutions in a private cloud environment. Sugar 6 is the first CRM app available on IBM SmartCloud, and offers visibility into sales, marketing and support; Sugar on IBM SmartCloud Enterprise marries SaaS with IBM's infrastructure, services, and support and integrates with other IBM SmartCloud plays like collaboration and analytics capabilities.