Lenovo unveils first managed service provider program

Lenovo’s first program for MSPs was designed by ex-IBMers, but is very different from the program IBM had.

On the heels of its acquisition of the IBM System x server business, Lenovo has rolled out its first partner program for cloud and managed service providers.

Lenovo has no program for MSPs before the acquisition, and IBM did, but even though the program is being run by ex-IBMers, they emphasized that the program is pretty much built from the ground up, not simply imported from IBM.

“About 80 per cent of this program is net new,” said Sergio Amoni, who was the VP of X86 channels at IBM, and is now VP, Worldwide Channels – Enterprise Systems at Lenovo. “We started from scratch because the program IBM had was designed for a broad set of offerings, not just the x86 datacenter space, as this one is.”

Amoni said that Lenovo determined by consulting with MSPs exactly what they wanted in a program.

“We spent months working with MSPS, not only in North America, but around the world, looking for the secret sauce,” he said. “We want to build a community, for the broader MSP community, so they will have a compelling reason to do business with us. We had to slug through a number of things until we had the right mix. We had to consider pricing, business development funding, consumption based models, specially configured solutions – so when you compare the IBM and Lenovo programs, it’s really two different animals.”

“We typically see a couple simple things that U.S. firms want,” said Mark McInnis, another ex-IBMer, who is now Managing Director for Lenovo’s MSP Division. “They want access to aggressive pricing with flexible financing terms. They want a consumption-based utility model. They want access to go-to-market business development to help them grow their business, and access to technical talent to help them grow their business. We built the program around those areas.”

Accordingly, Lenovo Service Provider Program members will be eligible to purchase systems at a discount through distribution. Lenovo also has designed a Kickstart program to improve cash flow, which lets service providers defer payments for up to 180 days.

“This is unique to this program, although we had some success with this in other parts of the world [Europe] with IBM,’ McInnis said.

Other components include a Rent & Grow program which makes payments along a usage-based utility model, and a trade-in program for eligible products, to recover capital from currently installed assets.

“Right now, this covers non-Lenovo branded products, but 18 to 24 months down the line, it will likely be expanded to include Lenovo replacements,” McInnis said.

Lenovo is also offering Express and FlexPac bundles through distribution, along with special rate incentives on Enterprise Solutions Services to enable rapid infrastructure deployment. Access to technical talent is provided by Lenovo x86 vouchers, which may be used for certifications to improve technical skills and business development funds.

While the program name specifies Service Providers instead of MSPs, McInnis said that it is not aimed at the big telcos.

“The target for this is the middle part of the MSP market, not for high end companies like AT&T, who don’t really need the services we will offer,” McInnis said. “This is for MSPs, some of which may be just starting out, but some of which will be larger.”

The program itself is pretty simple and streamlined, with no tiers and with no required certification process.

“There is an application process, which is very much focused on simplicity, and which is to ensure the applicants are service providers, and are not in this for hardware resale,” McInnis said.

“Our experience with this class of customers, MSPs, is that they are very skilled at what they do,” Amoni said.