IBM Has Been Going Full Steam Ahead Since PartnerWorld Conference

Usually, the big business announcements come in the weeks leading up to the big partner conferences, and then there's an activity lull in their wake. But IBM has maintained its head of steam since congregating two weeks ago with thousands of its partners in Orlando, Fla.

In the days following its PartnerWorld Leadership Conference, IBM agreed to buy Truven Health Analytics in a $2.6 billion deal, forged an important alliance with Check Point Software Technologies, and hosted its annual analyst summit.

IBM continued on that tear Monday with the acquisition of Resilient Systems, an incident-response security expert, and, concurrent with that deal, the formation of a new security services unit called X-Force Incident Response Services.

[Related: 10 Key IBM Acquisitions That Could Boost Partners]

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The post-conference moves further illustrate the vital role IBM sees security and health-care capabilities and data playing in its transformation to what CEO Ginni Rometty described to partners who gathered in Florida as "a cognitive solutions and cloud platform company."

Toni Saccanoghi, a senior analyst at Bernstein, wrote after attending the analyst conference last Thursday: "IBM has invested aggressively in acquiring capabilities and in securing data, particularly in health care, which it sees as a core asset, akin to content in the media world.

"Clearly cognitive computing is a big, transformational bet for IBM, and its logic is sound," Saccanoghi wrote. "The company has very strong capabilities in Watson and infrastructure, and encouragingly, IBM has attracted seasoned outside executives to the business."

Resilient, which offers a technology that bolsters IBM's security infrastructure portfolio, is the latest pickup in a buying spree that has now brought 20 companies into the IBM fold in the past year. Resilient, based in Cambridge, Mass., offers incident-response software, sold through a large channel of its own.

Caleb Barlow, vice president of IBM Security, told CRN via email that once the deal has closed, IBM will start talking to Resilient's partners about how "to address future business opportunities with IBM Security."

IBM plans to encourage Resilient partners to enroll in IBM PartnerWorld, its channel program, he said.

"We are keen to engage with existing Resilient Systems business partners to extend and grow this skilled community," Barlow told CRN.

Last week, IBM, Armonk, N.Y., entered an alliance with Check Point through which the two companies agreed to share threat intelligence -- part of a trend toward collaboration in the security space.

Aside from the lines of communication between the vendors, they plan to release integrated tools that partners can leverage.

"For our joint partners, the integration of IBM QRadar and Check Point technology through the IBM Security App Exchange will provide partners with simpler and more closely integrated offerings," Jason Corbin, a vice president at IBM Security, told CRN in an email.

Those integrations are "particularly important for smaller partners," Corbin said.

IBM collaborating on managed security services with Check Point, based in Israel and San Carlos, Calif., stems from a relationship that goes back to the 1990s.

Michael Anderson, a managing director at Sycomp, a partner of both Check Point and IBM based in Foster City, Calif., told CRN that the biggest impact of the alliance is validation of Check Point's technology in identifying and managing cyberthreats.

"IBM and Check Point coming together, completing each other's suites, is going to have a positive impact on the security market and people looking at positive security outcomes in general," Anderson told CRN. "Two leaders coming together is always positive."

For partners like Sycomp, the ability to "deliver one-stop shopping for security outcomes is very interesting," Anderson told CRN. "Combining services, threat intelligence and controls on the threat side makes it more interesting, more valuable, and will probably save someone money somewhere."

The real value comes from interoperability, he added.

Bernstein's Sacconaghi wrote in the takeaways he published after the analyst conference that while IBM's vision around cognitive computing and the Watson platform was compelling, and the project had assembled a strong leadership team, "having both doesn't necessarily assure success going forward."

IBM's rebranding is more aspirational than financial, he said. Bernstein estimates total cloud (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) and Watson revenue at less than $2 billion in the last fiscal year, less than 3 percent of total revenue.

The biggest change in strategy over that period has been IBM's belief that cognitive computing "will be a huge incremental opportunity going forward, with IBM's Watson technology as the centerpiece," Sacconaghi said, noting IBM estimates a $2 trillion market, which is bigger than the entire traditional IT market.

But the cognitive arena is getting crowded, he said, and it's developing around industry verticals that each require substantial independent investments.

The market is still in its early phases, "and cognitive and cloud are more vision than financial reality today," Sacconaghi concluded. "We estimate that directly attributable cloud and cognitive revenues are modest today."