IBM Formalizes Channel Cloud Engagement Models Announces Five Cloud Specializations at Partnerworld Leadership Conference

February 17, 2011 at 6:17 pm Leave a comment

by Beth Vanni, Vice President

Big Blue has been criticized for being a bit of a sleeping giant on the issue of aligning their cloud product and services strategy with their channel engagement models.  Not that many companies have been crystal clear on the intersect points of these two things to date, however.

The “IBM Cloud” has historically been mostly about their Global Technology Services infrastructure offerings, which frankly has been positioned more to their enterprise direct customers. Well, the giant seems to have awakened!  At this year’s Partnerworld Leadership Conference not only did IBM declare cloud computing one of only four global corporate initiatives (that’s very few for IBM) and publicly challenge Amazon’s cloud infrastructure packaging and pricing model. They also announced their first formal Partnerworld program designed for channel partners who are serious about the cloud.

The good news? Lots, actually.  The five channel specialty models encompass a wide variety of partner business models and demonstrates the company’s ability to think broadly about how partners will make money with the cloud.  These include:

1. Cloud Application Providers (ISV and SaaS developers)
2. Cloud Builders (integrators or VARs helping to build private or hybrid clouds)
3. Cloud Infrastructure Providers (MSPs or service providers)
4.  Cloud Services Solution Providers (resell cloud offerings and add complementary services)
5.  Cloud Technology Providers (build tools and services such as billing and metering) that help end-users or other providers use the cloud

Also, this program approach finally brings together the disparate product offerings from the company’s various business units – CastIron appliances, Websphere middleware, the LotusLive SaaS offering and Global Technology Services’ cloud managed service, among many others.

The bad news?  Well a bunch of the program details were missing or had conditions.  For example the incremental incentives available to partners after having achieved the specialization only apply to software via their Software Value Incentive (SVI) program.  Also, it wasn’t clear what the incremental requirements would be to achieve cloud specialization beyond what business partners might already have achieved.  We are presuming these include training, services mentoring, certifying certain services or cloud technology solutions or customer references.

Undoubtedly, these details will roll out in the coming months.  And IBM is notorious for hyper-funding initiatives where they want to pull ahead competitively.  To the extent these cloud offerings are packaged and priced effectively (especially for their target mid-market customer) and they don’t make the program too much more complicated, IBM has a real chance to leap ahead of its competitors in the deployment of hybrid public/private cloud deployments through partners in the next 12 months.

They aren’t as aggressive as Amazon.  They aren’t as innovative or focused as VMware.  They aren’t as arrogant as Oracle.  But they are IBM, after all; a computing behemoth capable of dominating nearly any market they set their sights on.  And with nearly 100,000 business partners and billions in the bank to invest, I’d be watching them very carefully in this space.

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Entry filed under: Industry Perspective, Live from Events. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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