7 Things IBM Must Address At PartnerWorld

What Partners Want

Some 1,500 IBM partners are gathering in Las Vegas for IBM's annual PartnerWorld Leadership Conference to hear what Ginni Rometty, IBM chairman, president and CEO, says is the future of IBM. Based on channel feedback, partners want answers.

It's been a blockbuster year of deals, among the highest-profile ones being the $2 billion acquisition of SoftLayer, the $2.3 billion sale of its x86 server business and the creation of a $1 billion Watson Group.

What are the pressing questions on IBM channel partners' mind? Here is what several of them had to say.

Meet The New Channel Leadership

The IBM channel wants to hear from its new leadership, namely Tami Duncan (pictured) and Marc Dupaquier. Last month IBM replaced outgoing global channel chief Mark Hennessy, putting Dupaquier into the slot as Big Blue's global business partner general manager.

Duncan, the company's new North American channel chief and vice president, IBM global business partners, North America, replaces Bill Donohue, who retired in August.

How Can Partners Get Strategic With SoftLayer?

IBM bought cloud platform company SoftLayer for $2 billion in July, and last month saw the sun set on IBM's SmartCloud Enterprise cloud platform. Partners say IBM must quell partner angst over plans to integrate the cloud platform into Big Blue's larger portfolio of services and at the same time ease concern over the abrupt shutdown of SmartCloud.

Some partners tell CRN that their SmartCloud customers aren't happy about having to move to SoftLayer. They say even if they are moving to a better cloud, moving costs time and money.

Let's Get Specific On How IBM's x86 Deal Will Impact My Business

With the sale of IBM's x86 server business and 7,500 former IBMers joining Lenovo, channel partners want to know what type of changes they should brace for in the future.

What impact will this deal have on the IBM channel? What type of product overlap is there between IBM's x86 server hardware and Lenovo's existing server portfolio? What type of channel enablement team will be in place after the deal is official? What can partners expect from IBM in terms of transition support?

How Can IBM's New $1 Billion Watson Group Benefit My Business?

IBM said last month it's investing $1 billion to create a new division called the Watson Group centered around commercializing its Watson supercomputer. IBM said a 2,000-strong group would be located in Silicon Alley in downtown New York and would seed development with $100 million in venture investments.

Debbie Fitzerman, president of DFC International Computing, a small Toronto-based SaaS provider and IBM partner, said she sees lots of potential for the technology over time. She hopes to learn more about how Watson will be commercialized and what opportunities there are to build apps on the Watson platform.

The Ginni Rometty Hot Seat: What's Her Message And Can She Deliver?

The pressure is on Ginni Rometty to deliver. It's been two years in the corner office for CEO Rometty and partners say the honeymoon is over. "IBM is in transition. It's moving fast get rid of its hardware business and become a software and services company. I want to hear how Ginny Rometty is going to lead IBM to the next big product line and partner opportunity," said one partner who asked not to be identified.

IBM Must Answer SoftLayer Specifics

IBM partners cheered Big Blue's $2 billion buy of SoftLayer this summer. Last month it upped that cloud investments by $1.2 billion, outlining plans to build 15 new data centers across the globe as part of a major expansion of its SoftLayer cloud services into new markets around the world.

IBM partners hail SoftLayer and IBM's direction into the cloud. But partners tell CRN the devil will be in the details. How will they be able to leverage these new data centers?

"I haven't yet seen the benefits of the SoftLayer acquisition. I'm going to have to reserve judgment until IBM does a better job in communicating what those benefits will be," said Tom Hughes, director of alliances for the Technology Solutions Group at Ciber, a Greenwood Village, Colo.-based IBM partner.

Ball's in your court, IBM.

Put The Rumors To Rest

There is Blue blood in the waters and the media sharks are circling. Ever since IBM put to rest the long-running rumor that it was planning on selling its x86 business, there have been nonstop rumors popping up about IBM selling off even more chunks of itself.

Reports surfaced Friday that IBM was selling its microprocessor business unit. Earlier in the week, rumors swirled it was selling its software-defined network business. IBM spokespeople say they won't comment on either rumor. But IBM partners say they don't know what to believe as Big Blue steps up the pace of making acquisitions and huge divestitures.