IBM-Acquired SoftLayer Puts The Call Out To MSPs

Drew Jenkins, channel chief at SoftLayer, an IBM Company, said the company is aggressively recruiting MSPs to adopt its cloud infrastructure services.

"IBM is working with over 5,000 MSPs on cloud-based initiatives, and having SoftLayer in their portfolio provides a platform which can be extremely beneficial for those MSPs," Jenkins told CRN. "Our focus on automation and flexible billing makes it easy for those MSPs to have an infrastructure provider and partner that is more flexible to their needs."

Jenkins said MSPs learn quickly that hosting applications and services themselves can be difficult and costly, especially during periods of rapid growth. "There's a significant number of MSPs out there that are tired of doing it on their own," he said.

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SoftLayer's cloud hosting services are spread out over 13 data centers in the U.S., Asia and Europe. IBM said having SoftLayer in the fold expands customer options across architectures, deployment models and price points. IBM still operates its SmartCloud Enterprise and its IBM SmartCloud Enterprise+ cloud infrastructure service.

SoftLayer does about 50 percent of its business through the channel and projects that number to grow significantly. Under IBM, the channel program has not seen any significant changes, Jenkins said.

"The messaging that we've received from IBM since day one was that for now nothing is changing," Jenkins said. "IBM partners that want to do business with us are partnering with SoftLayer and they are doing business under our structure for SoftLayer business."

Jenkin's said SoftLayer formalized its channel program 2011 when it put a channel sales team in place. The channel program provides support for hosting resellers and strategic partners such as MSPs and ISVs that deliver SaaS applications. Jenkins launched the company's referral partner program, which is popular with application developers and IT consultants who do business with clients that are considering cloud hosting.

Commissions are paid to referrers for the life of the customer, Jenkins said, beginning at 10 percent for the first year. The company also pays referrers if the client upgrades during the lifetime of the service. The program currently has more than 400 participants and has brought in 300 new customers over the past several years.

"The importance of the channel increases every year," Jenkins said. "Partners want to give their clients a broad set of options, and with our model there is a lot of opportunity out there."

One company now taking advantage of that opportunity is SilverSky, a managed security services provider that will use SoftLayer infrastructure to run its email hosting and security services.

SilverSky has more than 6,700 customers for its cloud-based threat management, secure messaging and collaboration services. The company made the move to partner with SoftLayer so that it could scale along with the projected growth in managed services and leverage IBM sales and distribution channels, said Andrew Jaquith, chief technology officer of SilverSky.

SilverSky's email offering is bandwidth- and compute I/O-intensive, requiring the company to ensure that it is effectively maintaining an environment that can scale on a moment's notice, Jacquith said. Rather than increasing capacity by buying terabytes or a petabyte at a time, using IaaS in a dynamically provisioned environment is much more cost-effective, he said.

"Although we have solid infrastructure today, we wanted to make sure we had room to grow in the future," Jaquith told CRN. "SoftLayer provides a dynamic and flexible infrastructure that could be rapidly provisioned; it's a very comprehensive network of data centers all over the globe."