IBM sweetens the pot for partners

At the kickoff of IBM's PartnerWorld conference, IBM announces new analytics and cloud incentives for partners

Kicking off its 2011 PartnerWorld Leadership Conference, IBM has announced an expanded set of incentives for business partners offering IBM-based cloud and analytics services.

The announcements reinforce IBM's general strategy of using resellers, integrators, ISVs (independent software vendors) and other IBM partners to customize and support IBM services for small and medium-sized businesses, rather than servicing this market directly.

"We don't compete with our partners, particularly in the ISV space. We enable them to be the application provider" for IBM offerings, said Mike Riegel, vice president of IBM ISVs and developer relations

For cloud computing, IBM has created a new package of incentives called the IBM Cloud Computing Specialty. Partners who participate in this program can resell IBM cloud services and IBM subscription-based applications such as LotusLive. IBM provides the billing metering and performance monitoring. The company will also offer development tools, education and early access to IBM's cloud computing strategic plans.

In May, IBM will also kick off a certification program, called the IBM Cloud Computing Authorization, that will certify IBM software partners that have demonstrated their ability to work with IBM's cloud computing offerings.

IBM is also offering a number of new incentives for those partners who implement IBM analytics software and services. The company is rolling out a number of new training courses and has also prepared a customized version of its Cognos business intelligence tool, called IBM Cognos Express Planner. This version of the software can help partners build financial plans and projections, anticipate performance gaps and allocate resources.

IBM estimates that business partners, rather than IBM, execute approximately 95 per cent of IBM analytics implementations in midsized organizations. The company has about 700 partners who offer services for IBM analytics.

"Partners are realizing that analytics is the big opportunity," said Riegel, pointing to an IBM survey that found that 70 per cent of business chief financial officers were unhappy with their current financial forecasting tools.

At the PartnerWorld conference, being held this week in Orlando, Florida, IBM also touted how one partner, Micro Strategies, deployed IBM's Smart Business cloud services for a customer, music service startup Music Mastermind.

Music Mastermind is preparing a service, called SoundBetter, that would allow its users to create and share their own music. SoundBetter contracted with Micro Strategies to help build the infrastructure for the service, which will go live in the latter part of this year.

"Music Mastermind did not want to buy servers and storage and set it all up," said Bob Hoey, general manager, general business (mid-market), IBM Global Technology Services. Instead, Micro Strategies estimated the amount of compute capacity Music Mastermind needed and then contracted with IBM for those services. As a result, SoundBetter does not have to purchase hardware, nor hire a hardware support staff. Billing will be based on an initial subscription fee, plus a variable monthly fee based on the amount of compute and storage resources SoundBetter uses.

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