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Big Blue Officially Courting MSPs

For the last few years, IBM has been quietly working with managed service providers to offer their MSP solutions on IBM services, software and hardware. On Wednesday, Big Blue made it official.

"I think in many ways, this announcement is about pulling it all together -- creating a public program and saying to MSPs that these are the paths you can be on in terms of investing with IBM, and these are what the benefits are," said Mike McClurg, vice president of IBM Global and Midmarket Sales and Strategy.

At joint events in Waltham, Mass. and Stuttgart, Germany on Wednesday, IBM unveiled global initiatives to enable IBM partner MSPs to deliver technology solutions or services to clients on a pay-as-you-go model. "In essence, it's a full-range MSP program within PartnerWorld," McClurg said in a telephone interview.

Elements of the program include:

  • Four Global Centers of Excellence where MSPs can work with IBM experts to develop cloud services and solutions. The centers are located in Shanghai; Tokyo; Ehningen, Germany; and New York City.

  • Marketing and sales support to help brand and promote partner services. While IBM didn't discuss the exact amount of investment on the MSP side, a company statement put the figure at a "significant part of the $100 million IBM has invested annually." One interesting piece of the marketing support is a social media bootcamp, in which IBM team members sit down with partners to help them manage their brand, generate interest and optimize search results.

  • By product, the focus is on IBM's PureSystems platform and SmartCloud, either in IBM's datacenters or at the partner's own datacenter using SmartCloud Enterprise.

  • Financing will also be offered to MSPs building out IBM-based datacenters through IBM Global Financing. Options include zero percent interest loans for 12 months for IBM systems, storage and software. IBM will also allow a 90-day first payment deferment for MSPs that select the PureSystems platform. McClurg noted that MSPs whose potential end users previously invested in IBM-based systems that would be unnecessary under the MSP solution can trade in systems for credits based on the IBM Certified Pre-Owned program.

Already at the formal launch, IBM has 1,400 MSP partners, including Perimeter, Symmetry, Velocity, CenterBeam, Oxford Networks, PEER 1 Hosting and Connectria. McClurg says the spending trends and buying preferences among customers mean there's a lot of opportunity for MSPs, VARs, ISVs and systems integrators to join across all verticals and most customer sizes from within IBM's 14,000 partner network and outside that network.

"We certainly have a long way to go in terms of tapping the entire market, but we do see this as [becoming] a major part of PartnerWorld," he said.

Posted by Scott Bekker on September 26, 2012