IBM debuts cloud partner program

CloudsORLANDO – IBM Tuesday announced an overarching channel program that will bring all of its various partner communities, including resellers, systems integrators and independent software vendors, together under the cloud.

The new IBM Cloud Computing Specialty will offer training, support and marketing resources to those partners who are looking to build a practice around Big Blue’s cloud offerings. The goal: to develop a community of elite cloud-focused partners, said Jim Corgel, vice president and general manager of ISV and developer relations for IBM.

“As partners come forward and say they want to invest in this with us, we’ll offer the mentorship, the education and the market development dollars they need,” Corgel said at the company’s PartnerWorld Leadership Conference here Tuesday.

The cloud opportunity is a big one for the vendor and its partners. Big Blue estimates cloud computing spend will double between 2010 and 2014, topping out that year at almost $150 billion (U.S.) And in its own survey of development partners, 91 per cent said they believe the cloud will overtake on-premise by 2015.

Under the program, partners will have dedicated IBM relationship managers to provide support, sales tools for assessments and demonstrations, access to business development funds, and the inside scoop on what’s coming in IBM’s cloud strategy and roadmap.

Chris Clinton, senior vice president of global channel management for New York City-based TradeCard, a supply chain management vendor, said the additional mentorship, training and supports are great, but the real value to the program for his company is “the insider access to IBM’s cloud strategy,” something he foresees allowing the company to move its platform into additional vertical markets. He said TradeCard has been doing what would be thought of now as cloud computing for 11 years now, and told partners that it is a real opportunity today. “The train left the station a long time ago,” he said.

The company will also use the unified nature of the cloud specialty for a wide variety of partners – an unusual function from the usually segmented IBM – to drive partner-to-partner mentoring, learning and collaboration, Corgel said.

The program will support five types of partners:

  • Cloud application providers
  • Cloud builders
  • Cloud infrastructure provider
  • Cloud service solution providers
  • Cloud technology providers

Corgel described the Cloud Specialty as the second step of driving specialization into the channel community, after the company’s November announcement of nine vertical focuses for its partners.

The company also announced that in May, it will launch the Cloud Computing Authorization under its Software Value Plus program. Aimed more at resellers of cloud technology, it will require partners to pas two cloud-centric certification tests to gain access to a grand of IBM’s cloud software offerings. Members of the program will have business planning sessions with Big Blue’s sales teams, and will get priority on customer leads from the vendor.

And lest business analytics (CEO Sam Palmisano’s number-one opportunity) be forgotten, the company also announced a new channel-centric tool for midmarket business intelligence. IBM Cognos Express Planner is designed to tackle financial planning in the midmarket, a field in which 95 per cent of Big Blue’s revenues come through the channel.

For partners looking for a deeper dive on analytics, the company announced it will use its 38 worldwide Innovation Centers (including on in Toronto) to deliver a variety of training and enablement programs on the subject. The effort will include everything scheduled drop-in sessions on specific topics to establishing mentorship relationships between IBM’s analytics team and partners. “We want to raise the skill level and the comfort level of the partner around analytics,” Corgel said.

Steve Mills, senior vice president of the software and systems group at Big Blue, urged partners to focus on the implementation side of their business, which has “a much greater value that just flow-through of technology.”

“My best partners are the ones who implement well,” Mills said.