IBM Intros Channel-only FlexPac Converged Infrastructure Bundles

IBM Thursday introduced new discounted hardware and software bundles based on its PureSystems converged infrastructure platform and available on a channel-only basis.

IBM's new FlexPac bundles, which include blade servers, a chassis, network switches, and an optional management appliance, are aimed at helping IBM solution providers take advantage of a growing market for converged infrastructure offerings, said Jeff Schlageter, vice president of North American PureSystems sales at IBM.

"We're giving our partners really aggressive pricing and flexible configurations," Schlageter said. "These are not major systems. But they get the door open for partners."

[Related: IBM Enters Converged Infrastructure Fray With PureSystems ]

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Opening the door to new deals will indeed be FlexPac's primary benefit to partners, said Stan Wysocki, vice president of Mark III Systems, a Houston-based solution provider and IBM partner.

Mark III has sold several Flex Systems, which are the build-to-order version of the more integrated PureSystems line, Wysocki said.

While Mark III will continue to focus on Flex System for it usual sales activities, Wysocki said the FlexPacs with their aggressive pricing will be a great way for his company to grab business late in the sales cycle when timing is more tight and competition is more entrenched.

"For example, if an account is already doing a proof-of-concept with a Cisco UCS solution, and I want to flip that deal, the FlexPac is ideal," he said. "I can tell the customer what's included, how many virtual machines it supports, what the total capabilities are, and what the price is. There's no need to go out for special pricing."

Early in the sales cycle, Mark III can customize a Flex System solution and work with IBM on special pricing as needed, Wysocki said. "But later in the cycle, you want to hit it hard," he said.

The FlexPac comes in three flavors, Schlageter said.

The entry configuration includes a Flex System Chassis with one Flex System Manager appliance, two server nodes with dual Intel Xeon E5-2620 processors and 64 GBs of memory, two converged network switches, and a three-year on-site warranty.

The value configuration is similar except that it includes four nodes, each with two Intel Xeon E5-2640 processors and 128 GBs of memory, while the premium configuration has four nodes, each with two Intel Xeon E5-2680 processors and 256 GBs of memory.

NEXT: FlexPac A Channel-only Competitor To HP, Dell, Cisco Solutions

The Flex System Manager is optional, Schlageter said.

The FlexPacs are expected to compete with Cisco UCS, HP Matrix, and Dell Active System converged infrastructure offerings.

IBM is not providing a reference architecture for FlexPac similar to EMC's VSPEX or NetApp's FlexPod or ExpressPod, Schlageter said.

The decision was made to give IBM's solution providers the flexibility to deploy both virtual and bare metal workloads, he said.

"In addition, these FlexPac bundles will allow our clients to leverage their current investment in non-IBM technology while they work to implement a complete converged solution," he said.

Since IBM last year unveiled its PureSystems and Flex System strategy, the company has sold over 4,000 Flex Systems and signed up over 1,000 partners worldwide, Schlageter said.

"My goal is to have 90 percent of our PureSystems business go through the channel," he said. "And we want 100 percent of our general business, including large enterprise and midmarket customers, to go through channels."

It is significant that IBM has make the FlexPac a channel-only offering, said Fred Cuen, senior vice president and general manager for IBM business in North America at Avnet Technology Solutions, the Tempe, Ariz.-based distributor.

"It's part of a continuing move by IBM to remain committed to the channel," he said.

Cuen said solution providers can ask Avnet to do the configuration of the FlexPacs before shipping to the customer site, or can have the configuration done by IBM which can then drop-ship to the customer.

Solution providers working with Avnet can take advantage of the Avnet Solution Path, which Cuen said provides partners with help on marketing, education, and enablement activities for a number of specific verticals.

The FlexPac bundles are now available. Neither IBM nor Avnet would discuss pricing.

Wysocki said the FlexPac bundles offer solution providers an additional 30 points or so of discount beyond the channel discount for the components if purchased individually, letting a complete FlexPac solution to be sold for as low as $30,000. "That’s what I meant by aggressive discounts," he said.