IBM will offer a discount of up to 15 per cent for end-users in a bid to freeze out Dell in the high-end server space, and channel partners will play a central role in its strategy.
The campaign, called Dell Ice Breaker, will run in the UK and Europe until the end of the year, and focus on Dell customers not currently using IBM products.
Discounts will be offered on the Express Configuration models for the iSeries and pSeries Unix boxes and Top Seller models in the Intel-based xSeries, sold mainly through the channel.
According to IBM, its strategy will target high-end customers that cannot get the same sort of scalability from Dell's one- or dual-processor-based flavours.
Ian Simmons, e-server channel director at IBM, said the return on investment argument benefits high-end server demand as companies consolidate. He said the promotion was very much a channel play.
"We do not sell one-size-fits-all," he added. "Dell does not have products that offer the necessary scalability."
Kevin Drew, managing director of IBM reseller Triangle, said IBM had a technical advantage but Dell often won business on price.
"The IBM technology is well in advance but Dell's packaging and price is attractive to customers," he said.
"A move to discount is a signal that IBM will attempt to compete on price."
He said Dell had a strong sales model but IBM had never achieved the same level of success. "If it engages with resellers it will be good for IBM," Drew said.
John Griffith, consulting director at VAR Compusys, which builds its own high-end servers, said: "This market is very competitive and 15 per cent discounts are just the start.
"[But] the channel's advantage is localised support, which is essential in the high-end server market."
A Dell representative said the company did not comment on the activities of competitors.
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