IBM introduces Smart Business virtual desktop offering

Ed Abrams - IBM

Ed Abrams

IBM has launched Virtual Desktop for Smart Business, a desktop virtualization option targeted at midmarket customers and one of the first offerings to come out of its midmarket-focused and channel-friendly Smart Business lineup.

The software, based on VERDE by Austin, Tex.-based Virtual Bridges, is designed to be hosted either on the customers’ premise or by the solution provider partner. And that partner-hosting option opens up a lot of options for the company’s business partners, according to Ed Abrams, vice president of midmarket marketing for IBM.

“This is a solution that really allows our partners to add significant value-add services to the virtual desktop deployment,” Abrams said.

Those services including partner hosting, desktop services and support and more, all wrapped around a solution that’s priced at $12.50 (U.S.) per seat per month. But the biggest channel opportunity, Abrams suggested, might be in the ability to use the control of the desktop to get closer to customers and really understand what else is going on the customer environment, opening the door for other optimization and improvement projects.

The Smart Business portfolio is a channel-centric play in the midmarket first outlined by Big Blue last year, offering designed-for-the-midmarket versions of popular solutions in a pre-integrated and easily manageable fashion, with the intention being for it to be delivered by local trusted solution providers. The need for such local touch in the midmarket was highlighted by IBM’s recently-released global study of midmarket technology needs, where more than seven in ten businesses looking for a “consultative (IT and business), versus purely transactional relationship with their primary IT provider.”

The virtual desktop space has been hotly contested and perhaps the most quickly expanding part of the virtualization space over the last twelve months. IBM says the simplified management capabilities of the solution lower total cost of ownership compared to competitive offerings from Citrix or VMware, and Abrams said both the scalability of the solution and its flexibility for channel partners represent considerable differentiation against competitors.

Abrams said Virtual Desktop is aimed at the midmarket space, but can scale almost infinitely both upwards and downwards. He said the solution can be delivered “cost-effectively” down to “very few users,” as well as comfortably moving up to 500-plus user environments. “The good news for us is that it’s got a virtually unlimited ceiling,” Abrams said.

IBM has previously offered a desktop virtualization solution based on its Virtual Bridges partnership, but that was only available on IBM’s cloud, not a partner- or customer-hosted private cloud as with Virtual Desktop for Small Business. Abrams reported that although it’s early days, IBM has seen a mix of interest from partners for both hosting the software themselves (either on a per-customer basis or as a general white-label solution) or managing it from a customer’s location.

Although the product just launched this week, Big Blue has been doing partner outreach for some time, and that’s ramping up. Abrams said the company has “extensive plans” in each region around the world to make sure the product gets the partner enablement kick-off it needs.

“This is one of the first products from the Smart Business solution portfolio and one of the marketplace needs we’re most excited about,” Abrams said.