IBM Channel Exec: Big Blue's Diversified Cloud Platform Gives Partners A Major Differentiator

An IBM channel executive told solution providers Tuesday the tech giant differentiates its business with an innovative cloud platform that spans environments, and focuses on giving partners many options to bring to customers.

IBM is often overshadowed in the news by rival cloud providers like Amazon and Microsoft. That lack of attention sometimes distracts channel attention from the massive investments Big Blue is making in its cloud business, said Chris Rimer, vice president of North American business partners and channels, at the NexGen Cloud Conference & Expo in Anaheim, Calif., hosted by CRN parent The Channel Company.

"One of the most important differentiators between IBM and everyone else in this business is our acknowledgement from the very beginning that there isn't only one cloud," Rimer told NexGen attendees.

[Related: Microsoft CSP Manager: Shift To Cloud Requires Shift In Sales Mentality Beyond Individual Deals]

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IBM is unique in its ability to offer a cloud portfolio that includes on-premises implementations, self-managed cloud and full public cloud, Rimer said.

"We provide you as partners with the ability to go into a client and have that honest conversation," Rimer said.

Many NexGen attendees currently with reseller practices are at an inflection point, trying to figure out what comes next in their businesses.

"One of the exciting things about this era is there is no one answer," Rimer said, but lots of exciting choices for the channel community.

IBM has been transforming to a cognitive solutions company with a focus on acquiring data sources, such as the Weather Company, leveraging open source technology whenever possible, and entering innovative partnerships with companies like Box, Apple and VMware.

Watson, IBM's cognitive computing platform, now offers 33 APIs on the Bluemix platform to be "bought by clients and more importantly be resold by you," he said. Watson is being used to build conversational agents, sentiment analysis tools and media analysis tools to make recommendations based on images, video and audio.

"If you still like to resell products, we have lots for you to resell," Rimer added, and there are plenty of service offerings as well to package with those products.

For legacy solution providers like Adam Rodriguez, founder of Network Systems Group in Columbus, Ga., a small MSP that works with local government and property management companies, IBM's portfolio has always been a little difficult to fully comprehend – seeming too complex and diversified.

"IBM has always been magic," he told CRN. "I don’t understand their products, their plan, they seem so complex. They're all over the place."

But Rodriguez plans on visiting the IBM representatives at NexGen to get a demonstration of the migration service Big Blue introduced to migrate on-premises VMware loads to the cloud.

That VMware partnership could be an entry-point to doing business with IBM, he said, as his small company looks to figure out what new technologies it can leverage to expand its business and stay relevant in a part of the country that doesn't have an extremely competitive MSP landscape.

Five years ago, if someone was going to tell me our on-prem Exchange servers were going to be on Office 365, I 'd say you're crazy," Rodriguez said. "So I'm here to learn the latest and greatest."