IBM Channel Leader: Partners Must Place Their Bets In The Intelligent Era Of IT

IBM's cloud was built for artificial intelligence, a technology that presents possibly the largest market opportunity for partners, Dorothy Copeland , vice president of global business partners for North America, told attendees of The NexGen 2017 Conference & Technology Expo in Los Angeles.

The IT industry has entered the "intelligent era" of computing, Copeland said in a keynote Monday. A large ecosystem is developing around IBM platforms, especially the Bluemix cloud and Watson cognitive platform, to deliver solutions previously unimaginable.

IBM's cognitive solutions are "allowing data to be used in the way our brains use data, except backed by the horsepower of IT," Copeland told NexGen attendees. "This is the new era and this is the opportunity for all of us going forward."

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Companies are slowly adopting new technologies produced in the intelligent era of IT—not only AI but other solutions like Internet of Things and blockchain, she said.

"It sort of happens one app at a time," Copeland told attendees.

"What we're doing is putting the AI brains throughout all of our products," she said. That includes those focused on identifying security threats and rapidly responding to them.

IBM is tailoring those offerings for vertical markets, recognizing that different industries have different needs. The company is also committed to ensuring that insights gleaned from its artificial intelligence products remain entirely the property of the clients.

Making it all possible is the hardware powering IBM's data centers.

"It starts with our cloud and our cloud was built with AI in mind," she said. That means fast GPUs, accelerators, and networks designed for high-performance workloads.

But to usher in the new era also requires fostering an ecosystem of developers by enabling them to build applications on the IBM stack.

IBM can innovate fast because of more than 100 thousand partners around the world building on its technology, Copeland said.

For channel partners, seizing the opportunity means looking to the future.

"It's really about making a bet. Deciding where you want to go," Copeland said. "Where your business is now today, it won't be there in five years."

IBM is working to make those decisions easier for its partners with flexible engagement models, the ability to add value across its portfolio, and a broad technology platform, she said.

"The innovation is always interesting. What struck me most is the collaboration they have with the ecosystem," Jaime Albizures, director of sales and business development at Ace Computers, an IBM hardware reseller based in Chicago, told CRN.

It's encouraging to see a company like IBM moving away from a proprietary approach to innovation, he said.

"Everyone is trying to collaborate," Albizures said.

There's a race to AI, and every company is trying to seize "the little nugget in artificial intelligence" that will differentiate its offerings," Albizures said.