IBM Sharpens Its Partner Focus With Blade Initiatives

Debra Thompson, IBM's vice president of channels and solution marketing, introduced the company's new BladeCenter and Storage Solution Centers, an initiative aimed at helping up to 100 of its U.S.-based System x Intel-based blade server and related storage solution providers set up demonstration centers.

The new centers, to be formally unveiled next week, are modeled after IBM's Business Partner Innovation Centers, where IBM jointly worked with 80 premier solution providers worldwide to set up facilities to show the full range of hardware, software and services to customers, Thompson said.

IBM expects the new centers to help partners showcase IBM's blade technology and gain access to skill building, leasing, and marketing and sales support, she said. "Our BPIC business partners have found accelerated growth," she said. "We expect this to do the same for our System x server and storage blade business."

Thompson also discussed the IBM BladeCenter S, an all-in-one blade server chassis for smaller businesses. The BladeCenter S comes with six blade server slots and "select-and-click" configurability, and plugs into a 110-volt electrical plug. "This is an IBM exclusive," Thompson said. "There's not another competitor today that has it. Those of you who have not added blades to your business need to. This is the fastest-growing opportunity."

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Koji Mori, general manager for network services at Calsoft Systems, a Torrance, Calif.-based IBM and Microsoft partner, said his company has not yet done blade servers but may now consider it.

"Typical chassis have slots for 10 blades, and have to be full to be cost-effective," Mori said. "This is the first time blade technology has come to us at this level." Thompson also introduced a new program called the Distributor Growth Fund under which IBM is providing a total of $20 million through its distributors to help in partner recruitment and lead generation. IBM has targeted $7 million for about 900 solution providers, or between $5,000 and $12,000 per partner, to help with demand generation, Thompson said.

"Most of our money in the past was oriented to larger partners," she said. "But we needed to add funding for smaller business partners. So we reoriented our funding pool."

Mori said he is already feeling the impact with his distributor. "Avnet is very active with us, much more than last year," he said. "They're helping us get into larger accounts and grow our business."

Thompson introduced several existing programs as well, and spent a lot of time discussing ValueNet, under which IBM helps solution providers identify other solution providers so they can work together.

There are already more than 460 solution providers in the U.S. involved in ValueNet, Thompson said, including, a Westlake, Ohio, ISV in the medical care market. Garett Fortune,'s vice president of sales and marketing, shared the stage with Thompson and said that in the last year, his company has picked up five partner solution providers representing 78 deals in the pipeline.