Partners: Intel’s AI Efforts Could Get Boost From Kimrey’s New Sales Group

As Intel seeks to bring ‘AI everywhere’ with its portfolio of chips for PCs, servers and edge systems, some of the chipmaker’s top partners say its new North America commercial and partner sales group led by Jason Kimrey will have an important role to play.

Intel’s move to merge its U.S. partner and enterprise sales teams under the leadership of longtime channel chief Jason Kimrey could give the chipmaker a much-needed boost for its commercial business, especially as it seeks to grow in multiple AI segments, partners told CRN.

Kent Tibbils, vice president of marketing at Fremont, Calif.-based IT distributor ASI, called the move “long overdue” and said the newly established unity between Intel’s partner and enterprise sales teams—which went into effect last week—could help the company deliver a more cohesive message around its AI and software strategies to businesses.

[Related: New Intel Global Channel Chief Seeks To ‘Keep Evolving’ Partner Program Amid Software, AI PC Push]

“There definitely needs to be a lot of really good communication and coordination between all the levels of customers [including channel partners and end users] in order to convey those messages and values,” said the distribution executive, who called Kimrey, most recently Intel’s U.S. channel chief, a “great advocate for all of us in the channel.”

The chipmaker exclusively revealed to CRN on Monday that it had appointed Kimrey to become vice president of the new North America commercial and partner sales group, which combined his U.S. channel scale and partners team with Intel’s teams for large U.S. enterprise customers, U.S. communications service providers and Canadian customers and partners.

In an interview, Kimrey said the creation of the new organization will ensure that the previously disparate teams “operate as one Intel” and “bring the best of what Intel has to offer to the entire commercial market in a single voice.”

Tibbils (pictured) said this lock-step approach is needed for Intel to educate businesses on the AI inferencing capabilities of its Xeon Scalable CPUs, which it has promoted as a more economical and pragmatic alternative to Nvidia’s popular but expensive GPUs in various situations.

This will be important in helping businesses understand how they can take advantage of new accelerators in the most recent Xeon CPUs, such as Advanced Vector Extensions 512 (AVX-512) and Advanced Matrix Extensions (AMX), to boost AI and machine learning workloads.

“There's going to have to be a lot of education, understanding and communication about here's the value and benefits you're going to get, especially with what Intel's doing around accelerators [in its Xeon CPUs],” Tibbils said.

Beyond explaining the benefits of its chips for AI purposes, Kimrey’s new sales group could also help businesses who have struggled to figure out how to take advantage of AI and need a guiding hand, according to the distribution executive.

“The companies deploying AI stuff now are definitely more advanced in terms of their thinking about how that's going to help their businesses. But there's still a lot of companies out there that still don’t know how and where all of that is going to fit and what value it's going to bring to them,” Tibbils said. “So those conversations still need to take place, and that's where having all these departments or touchpoints connected is going to be extremely helpful.”

Top Partner Calls Kimrey The Right Person To Lead New Group

Bob Olwig, executive vice president of global partner alliances at St. Louis, Miss.-based World Wide Technology, said Kimrey is the right person to lead Intel’s new commercial and partner sales group because his “ability to evangelize and articulate Intel’s strategy across both end-user commercial customers as well as partners is pretty powerful.”

“Jason is also a relationship person. He doesn't hesitate to get on a plane to go meet with partners or with customers,” he said.

Like Tibbils, Olwig said he also believes the coupling of Intel’s enterprise and partner sales teams could help partners like WWT encourage more businesses to adopt AI solutions.

Ranked No. 9 on CRN’s 2023 Solution Provider 500 list, WWT has a long-standing strategic relationship with Intel, which has expanded in recent years to include co-investments in the channel partner’s Advanced Technology Center.

Also known as the ATC, the center is now home to a multi-OEM AI testing environment called the AI Proving Ground, which houses systems powered by Intel’s Gaudi AI chips and data center GPUs alongside other systems equipped with rival processors.

Olwig said Kimrey “is intimately involved and familiar with our partnership [and] the investments that Intel and World Wide are jointly making in the solutions in the ATC and AI Proving Ground.”

As a result, the solution provider executive sees Kimrey as a key person who can continue to create alignment between Intel and WWT to accelerate his company’s AI computing business.

“When he's out in front of his sales teams, he's helping articulate what World Wide and Intel's investments are in this AI Proving Ground, how we're helping customers evaluate AI, and frankly, implement it into production, which seems to be a bit elusive for some customers,” Olwig said.“We’re going to be able to help accelerate the deployment of those use cases.”

The WWT leader said he also sees the coupling of Intel’s partner and enterprise teams benefiting the solution provider more broadly when it comes to their largest business customers.

“We have an initiative to ensure that Intel and World Wide are partnered, as best we can, on our largest enterprise accounts. And Jason's committed to making sure that he's pressing his teams to work with our enterprise teams in that kind of lockstep motion of working together to best serve our joint customers,” Olwig said.

New Group Is ‘Great Timing’ For Intel’s AI PC Efforts

Harry Zarek, president of Ontario-based Compugen, said the creation of Intel’s new commercial and partner sales organization is “great timing” for the chipmaker’s push to establish itself as the leader in the nascent but fast-growing AI PC category.

“I think the seminal move for 2024 and 2025 is going to be the AI PC. Anything and everything that can be done to help customers understand the [major] improvement in not only in performance, but the kinds of applications you're going to be able to now run, it opens a whole new category of applications—and clearly, Intel's got a big role to play in that,” he said.

While Intel is enabling AI PCs at the chip level with its new Core Ultra chips, the category has many other stakeholders who have an important role to play, whether it’s Microsoft, OEMs like Lenovo, Dell Technologies and HP Inc. or independent software vendors.

To Zarek, Kimrey’s new group has an important role to play in orchestrating how all these companies work together with partners.

“What we're going to see is a need for much more collaboration across the different parts of the ecosystem,” said Zarek, whose company is No. 62 on CRN’s 2023 Solution Provider 500.

But between Kimrey’s strong understanding of the channel and his experience working with OEMs and Microsoft, “he’s got a very broader perspective of how this works,” he added.

Kimrey Is Now Channel’s ‘Eyes And Ears’ For Commercial IT Market

With Kimrey taking over an organization that manages relationships with both channel partners and large enterprise companies, the executive will gain a “complete view of the entire market” for commercial IT that will greatly benefit the channel.

That’s according to Gary Palenbaum, executive vice president of sales and vendor management at Fremont, Calif.-based TD Synnex, one of North America’s largest IT distributors.

Calling the merger of commercial and channel sales teams “by far the best thing Intel’s ever done,” Palenbaum said the new role will allow Kimrey to keep “distribution, partners and users in mind” when the chipmaker creates programs and takes products to market.

In turn, Kimrey will gain a better understanding of how business customers use Intel’s products, which could help inform how Intel develops programs that move products through the channel faster and address supply chain issues,” he added.

“When they do introduce a new version of a CPU, he gets an idea of how it's going to work at the end-user level [and] what's going to be sold at the end-user level,” Palenbaum said.

This means Kimrey will have a much more holistic view of the commercial IT market.

“So for us, he’s my eyes and ears across the entire spectrum, where, before, he might have only looked at the distribution partner and say, ‘buy this product,’ and we bring it in, we sit on it, and we were really the ones that have to go out and create some of that demand for the end user, for the partners,” Palenbaum said.

As a result, the distribution executive expects the reorganization to “enhance the business in a way that we’ll be comfortable buying more product from Intel.”

“That's what I think is probably going to be the biggest advantage today that Intel has not had in the in the past,” Palenbaum said.

Kimrey Has A ‘High Say-Do Ratio’ For Partner Initiatives

Megan Amdahl, senior vice president of client experience and North America COO for Chandler, Ariz.-based Insight Enterprises, said Kimrey’s new role is a “super well-deserved promotion” and called the 24-year Intel veteran “an outstanding leader.”

“He has a really high say-do ratio. We’re able to bring to him creative ways for us to partner and co-invest, to drive above-market growth,” said Amdahl, whose company ranked No. 13 in CRN’s 2023 Solution Provider 500 list.

Amdahl said Insight has been meeting with Intel often to build generative AI solutions at the edge, particularly around health care and retail, and sort out which of the many independent software vendors in the space the solution provider should work with.

“The partnership’s just very strategic,” she said.