IBM Relies On Partners To Carry New Desktop Virtualization Software

IBM Monday debuted Virtual Desktop for Smart Business, the company's first desktop virtualization product targeting SMBs.

The new software, which allows Windows or Linux desktops to be hosted and managed centrally, will be sold almost exclusively through the channel.

IBM will be competing head-to-head with Citrix and Microsoft in the desktop virtualization space. "We think we have a superior offering here," said Ed Abrams, vice president of midmarket marketing at IBM, in an interview. "This is a hot market where we have hot competition."

Virtual Desktop for Smart Business provides a way to deliver a single image of a desktop environment to all desktop and laptop computers throughout a company. That helps businesses deploy applications more consistently across an organization and reduce costs through more effective IT management, Abrams said.

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The executive said the product addresses the issue of how businesses consistently provision and manage the growing number of mobile devices employees are increasingly using today.

The software is targeted toward mid-market companies, which IBM defines as organizations with 100 to 1,000 employees. But Abrams said the software could also be used by smaller businesses.

IBM will rely almost exclusively on the channel to sell Virtual Desktop for Smart Business (IBM will sell the product direct in a few regions in Asia and Central Europe). It can be hosted by partners in a private cloud environment or implemented at the customer site.

Next: The Partner Opportunity

"Partners have the opportunity to add their own value and services," Abrams said. Along with hosting the software solution providers can offer consulting services and manage service level agreements to develop deeper relationships with their customers, he said.

IBM said more than 100 partners participated in an early adopter program for the product and are preparing to market the product.

"Our clients can realize benefits of cost savings from the desktop of up to 40 percent while we're able to gain a recurring revenue stream on back-end management," said Ken Espiau, operations director at Northcom Technologies, an Anthem, Ariz.-based IBM channel partner, in a statement.

"Many of our midsize clients lack the IT resources and time required to manage a traditional PC environment," added Steve Giondomenica, president of CMI (Chouinard & Myhre Inc.), a Cotati, Calif.-based channel partner, in a statement.

IBM has been making a major push into the midmarket arena in recent years and the company is relying almost entirely on the channel for those sales. Earlier this month IBM released the results of a survey of more than 2,000 midsize companies that found that 53 percent expected to increase their IT budget this year and more than 75 percent planned upgrades to their core IT infrastructure. And more than 70 percent sought a consultative relationship with their IT solution providers.

IBM is offering Virtual Desktop for Smart Business as a pre-integrated software package at $150 per user, per year and the product is available now.