Dell wants a piece of the IBM server channel

Dell channel chief Cheryl Cook

Dell channel chief Cheryl Cook

Hewlett-Packard was the first to launch rescue efforts to help IBM partners from being forced to join Lenovo with the sale of Big Blue’s entry-level server business. Now Dell is getting into the game, believing it offers a better lifeboat than its rival.

Unlike HP, Dell doesn’t have a formal program to lure and integrate IBM server partners. Nevertheless, Dell channel chief Cheryl Cook says the number three server vendor is getting a lot of calls from disaffected resellers who do not want to join the Lenovo channel program with the sale.

“Their profile of the business, the product portfolio and the go-to-market strategy align more with Dell than it does with Lenovo,” Cook explained the interest of IBM partners.

A large part of the reason IBM solution providers are looking at Dell as a safe haven is many are already working with HP either as a primary or alternative server supplier. By Dell’s estimation, the overlap between IBM and HP is so high, Dell is the only logical alternative that can give solution providers entry-level servers and access to other technologies, such as cloud computing, storage, security and endpoints.

“They may have already had HP, so Dell is the natural place to be,” Cook tells Channelnomics.

After nearly a year of speculation that a sale was in the offing, IBM announced in Januarythat it is selling its Systems x and other x86 server products and business unit to Lenovo for $2.3 billion. The sale is currently pending government inspection; IBM filed for a review extension to give U.S. defense and national security regulators more time.

Last month, HP formally announced “Project Smart Choice, a program designed to give IBM solution providers an easier path to joining the HP PartnerOne channel. HP is offering IBM partners who do not want to join Lenovo with the sale grandfathered certifications, lateral transference of their existing tiers and marketing support.

HP believes it offers a better home to IBM server resellers than Lenovo because it has the technical certifications and breadth of complementary products that customers demand for holistic solutions and sales engagements.

“You need the skills and technical certifications to do sales and advocate solutions,” says Patrick Eitenbichler, HP director of PartnerOne strategy. “Lenovo doesn’t have the skills or the certifications the customers need.”

While Dell is looking to lure IBM partners, it doesn’t have a formal program for doing so. Cook says Dell will offer IBM partners similar benefits, such as lateral positioning in the Dell PartnerDirect channel program.

The IBM-Lenovo server deal could be the catalyst for significant changes in the general IT market and channel. IBM is jettisoning the struggling server unit to free up cash and resources, and pivot its business more toward cloud products, such as its SoftLayer platform. Lenovo, which has a small server business, is looking to use the IBM install-base and resources to catapult to the top of the server vendor ranks, and diversify its business.

Dell and HP aren’t the only vendors looking to attract partners with the server sale. IBM, too, is looking to be its own lifeboat for affected partners. While many solution providers are expected to transfer to Lenovo with the sale, IBM expects to retain as much as one-third of the 2,000 resellers to sell and support its SoftLayer cloud services.

“Partners selling cloud services like SoftLayer will go relatively fast. It’s not really different from x86 servers,” said Marc Dupaquier, general manager of Global Business Partners at IBM, in a February interview with Channelnomics.

The IBM-Lenovo sale is expected to close later this year.

This article originally appeared on Channelnomics.