IBM, With VMware, Provides Partners A Market-Ready Hybrid Cloud Solution That They Can Sell Now

IBM stirred up excitement early last year when it forged a strategic partnership with VMware to facilitate extension of VMware environments to the SoftLayer public cloud. But partners were soon disappointed to learn IBM Cloud for VMware would be a no-go zone for the channel.

That all changed this week when Big Blue revealed at its PartnerWorld Leadership Conference it was authorizing business partners to resell the integrated hybrid cloud offering previously reserved for its own internal services division.

"That really opens up an entire new market [for partners] with all of the VMware installations around the globe, and there are many," said Meg Swanson, vice president of marketing for IBM Bluemix, in revealing the change to IBM's channel program.

[Related: From A Partner Program Perspective, IBM Says Its Cognitive Transformation Is Already Complete]

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With VMware's own public cloud play, vCloud Air, fading into obsolescence, and uncertainty surrounding a much-hyped deal with Amazon Web Services, IBM's integration represents VMware's only hybrid cloud story.

Avnet, an IBM cloud distributor that facilitates a network of value-added resellers around the world, is now working with those partners to leverage the integrated solution, Sergio Farache, Avnet's senior vice president of strategy, told CRN.

Avnet had already been offering its own tools and white-label services to help partners deploy VMware environments on SoftLayer, the IBM Infrastructure-as-a-Service platform recently wrapped under the Bluemix branding. But the process was more operationally cumbersome and expensive than what IBM developed last year for the exclusive use of its services unit.

Making the "VMware-ready capability" a channel play "accelerates the motion of something we were already promoting on the generic SoftLayer bare-metal infrastructure," Farache said.

IBM's solution simplifies provisioning through the IBM Marketplace, adds migration, automation and management capabilities, and integrates billing so partners don’t need to go out and obtain separate licenses.

"IBM is the first one to put a complete model in place with this level of integration and transparency for the partner, and a real partner motion," Farache said. "Others have announced, but there's no real partner motion."

AWS, the industry leader, made waves in October when it struck its own deal with VMware to bring the virtualization technology to the public cloud.

IBM Cloud for VMware, however, has the advantage over AWS of actually being on the market, as opposed to a conceptual product with unspecified pricing and no firm release date, said Quincy Allen, chief marketing officer for IBM Cloud.

And IBM's solution is compatible with all VMware tools and interfaces, Allen told CRN, something partners were clamoring for.

"They were disappointed in the beginning when they could not take advantage of it," Allen told CRN.

At the same time, IBM recognized that its many thousands of channel partners around the world could rapidly scale deployment of VMware on Bluemix.

"Clients are trying to get to the cloud. That's what they want to do, but quickly what comes into your purview, the reality, is they're not just going to start over," Allen said. "The quickest way to cloud is to leverage what you have already."

And what enterprises throughout the world already have are VMware-virtualized private clouds, he said.

Farache, of Avnet, told CRN that more than working with any specific vendors, partners want to be able to offer a comprehensive hybrid solution that meets the demands of enterprises. Many who focus on private cloud have been developing skills in orchestration and automation, and were looking for an opportunity to extend into the public cloud.

"More and more their hybrid needs were growing," he told CRN. "The piece IBM is putting on the table is simplifying this for them."

Solution providers can install just about any software on any hyper-scale cloud, as Avnet had previously done with VMware on SoftLayer. But a streamlined product, available through a marketplace and supported by a formal channel program, incentivizes partners to go to market with a true value proposition, he said.

And for enterprise customers, IBM's capabilities as far as security, redundancy, and global data center presence make the hybrid option far more attractive, he told CRN.