IBM Broadens MSP Push Into SMB Space

The first initiative, dubbed IBM Desktop Management Services, boasts a menu of price-per-seat client services that solution providers can offer to SMBs for remote PC management tasks such as automated storage backup, virus scanning and printer monitoring.

The second, IBM Network Management Services, offers a similar managed service approach for solution providers to deliver broader network issues such as infrastructure recovery and management, as well as availability management services for iSeries, eServer and legacy AS/400 systems.

The initiatives offer services for PC management tasks as well as infrastructure recovery and management.

Beth Feeney, director of global offerings in the small and medium business unit of IBM Global Services, said the efforts fall under the IBM Express portfolio launched last year and signal the continuation of the company's push into the managed services market overall.

"We're taking general desktop and network management services and breaking them down into logical components that midmarket customers will be looking for," Feeney said. "We think these smaller businesses are beginning to get comfortable with making technology decisions and turning them over to someone else to manage completely."

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While the new IBM managed services efforts were designed to enable SMB customers to outsource management of their IBM products, Feeney said the efforts also offer management options for products from other vendors, too. Pricing varies accordingly. While most of the IBM Desktop Management Services start at $40 per user per month, service for managing products from other vendors begins at $80.

Despite the large price differential, IBM business partners reacted positively to the announcement of the new managed services options. Jim Torney, president of Essex Technology Group, Rochelle Park, N.J., said his firm now has significant incentives to upsell managed services into accounts where customers already plan to purchase IBM hardware.

"We can sell the IBM eServer hardware, perform some installation services and receive an annuity fee for the life of the hosting contract as well," Torney said. "It appears IGS has this right and is well-positioned to gain SMB hosting market share."

Other managed service providers seemed to think the move was smart, too. Oli Thordarson, CEO of Alvaka Networks, Huntington Beach, Calif., said IBM's entrance into the SMB managed services space signifies that the market has "come of age," noting that the move could spark a trend for other vendors to launch similar services down the road.

"If IBM can help legitimize this market and popularize it for everyone, the pie will be bigger for all of us," Thordarson said. "When a company like IBM gets involved in something like managed services, you know it's a big deal."

Pricing for various IBM Network Management Services varies by service, but with financing options can be as low as $775 per month. Most of the network management services require purchase of hardware and software, Feeney said.

DAN NEEL contributed to this story.