Avnet's Blade Run

Fred Cuen, president of Avnet Solution Partners, IBM Americas, San Antonio, said the distributor has put together a plan to enable 50 BladeCenter solution providers to go after new SMB blade accounts as part of what he calls "first in enterprise" opportunities.

"We are helping them with the seeding of the chassis," Cuen said. "We will provide them with training and development along with the first enterprise chassis to allow them to accelerate their opportunities and ours in blades."

Ron Venzin, vice president of Paradigm Integrated Services, an IBM Business Partner in Phoenix, said the Avnet program could yield a windfall for IBM blade sales. "Customers may only need four or five blade servers initially, and they'll look at the $3,000 cost of the BladeCenter and say [the blade solution] is too expensive," he said.

But if he can offer the BladeCenter for free, it changes the game. "I've talked to four or five customers in the past week who were initially reluctant, but who are now suddenly interested," Venzin said. "I'll probably close every deal."

Sponsored post

Venzin said the free BladeCenter isn't targeted at his existing blade customers, adding that it wouldn't make sense to give BladeCenters away to customers who have already committed to the technology.

Meanwhile, some solution providers questioned the strategy altogether. Joe Vaught, principal of PCPC, Houston, said he was confused as to why IBM would need its distributors to give away blade chassis.

"They don't need to do that," he said. "The blades are the hottest thing IBM has offered since the iSeries."

Charles Miano, corporate vice president for HPM Networks, a Fremont, Calif.-based VAR, said the deal devalues the solution aspects of the sale. "To give away an enclosure is a little silly there is a lot more involved [in the blade sale] than just the enclosure," he said.

Towney Kennard, IBM's vice president, Business Partners, Americas, said there is no formalized plan to subsidize the costs of the BladeCenter to sell more blades. "One of the values that our distributors bring is being one more step closer to the market and acting quickly to what they see," he said.

But solution providers acknowledged the obvious: IBM and HP blades don't fit in each other's chassis. The vendor that gets an account first is the long-term winner. "What you really want to fight for is that initial deal," said Jim Sweeney, president of DSS, an IBM Business Partner in Reading, Pa. "Then you don't need a forklift for upgrades and you can populate it with your blades."

That fact is not lost on HP. "We understand that the battleground will form up around the frame, but we are not making that offer [free chassis] at this point," said David Pansen, HP's vice president, channel distribution. He said, however, that HP will launch an aggressive new blade initiative within 90 days. "It will have a distributor component, a demand generator component and a VAR component," Pansen said, declining to provide details.