IBM eyes disties for custom-build Power solutions

IBM's Power platform -- coming soon to a distributor near you?

IBM’s Power platform — coming soon to a distributor near you?

ORLANDO — In recent years, IBM has been making moves to make its Power computing platform much more mainstream than its previous roles with the OpenPower Foundation and support for Linux on Power. Now, it seems close to making solution based on Power much more accessible to a broader set of solution providers by partnering with distributors to deliver purpose-built custom configurations.

IBM executives at the company’s PartnerWorld conference here are referring to the program as Rapid Build, although they stress that name is not final. Under the plan, distributors will be able to offer custom stacks of hardware based on the Power processor architecture, paired with Linux and applications from ISVs to offer a “componentized set of possibilities,” according to Stefanie Chiras, vice president of Power Systems offering management for system of engagement infrastructures at IBM.

“We’re looking for true value-add solutions to come out of distribution. It lets them bring in their value proposition and leverage their expertise,” Chiras said.

Steve Sibley, vice president and business line executive at IBM handling Power systems of record, described the initiative as one that will “bring a grocery store of technologies” to distributors and allow them to package them together in new ways.

“It’s new for us, and a little bit new for our partners,” Sibley said.

Building custom solutions from hardware, software and services is not new territory for Avnet Technology Solutions, though. One of the distributors briefed on “Rapid Build” and on board with the initiative, the distributor has made a significant business out of such bundling efforts, ranging from reference architectures to pre-integrated data centre appliances that include everything from infrastructure to application.

“They want to leverage the capabilities of Avnet to deliver more complete solutions to market with key Linux ISVs,” said Mark Martin, vice president of IBM solutions at Avnet. “They’re interested in marrying us up and finding a way that’s more packaged and easier to consume.”

In the past, IBM has offered a similar pre-integrated approach with a select number of top applications, but by going with distribution to handle some of that work, Martin said IBM will able to offer more custom solutions for solution providers, and be more agile in response to changing demands with existing stacks.

Martin said the distributor is in talks with “six or eight of the top Linux ISVs” around the initiatives, and that most of them, if they end up working with the distributor on Rapid Build, will be new to distribution as organizations, if not new to the channel entirely. Thus, as well as the technical side of Rapid Build, Martin said the distributor will work with its new vendors to build channel capacity and offer channel enablement. Unsurprisingly, the initial offerings will largely focus on the data-centric applications that make the most sense on the Power platform.

“With programs like Rapid Build, we’re hoping to help [solution providers] do Power in more comfortable ways,” Chiras said.

IBM has not set a target launch date for Rapid Build (or whatever name the initative might ultimately take) as yet, but Avnet’s Martin suggested the distributor could be ready to go with custom packages based on Power as early as May, depending on whether the solutions offered ultimately take a looser (reference architecture) or tighter (appliance) form.

“Our job will do the logistic, the support, the channel enablement,” Martin said. “The opportunity is there, an the technology is there.”

But has the killer app been landed as of yet? Martin suggested the biggest opportunity for such a stack may be with SAP’s HANA in-memory database, but added that is not one of the vendors with which the distributor is close to a deal.

“Most of these will be new opportunities for us and for our business partners, through new relationships,” Martin said.