IBM partners were in the right mood for Mardi Gras last week after executives at the company announced that it would "bend over backwards" to make its partner relationships work.
Speaking at IBM's PartnerWorld conference in New Orleans, Mike Borman, general manager for global business partners at IBM, said that the firm had made more than $25bn last year from Business Partners, a third of IBM's total revenue.
He noted two IBM priorities for this year: on-demand computing, and medium business.
"What is on demand?" Borman asked rhetorically. "[IBM and its Business Partners) customers' ability to respond to their customers' needs."
Inviting its roughly 3,000 Business Partners to 'discover the power of the on-demand era' - the overall theme of the conference - IBM continued to tout the mid-market.
"The mid-market is the single biggest opportunity we have together," said Mike Lowrie, senior vice president and group executive of sales and distribution at IBM.
SMEs make up 42 per cent of the overall market, worth about $150bn, he added. "You cannot be a leader in the on-demand marketplace if you ignore 42 per cent of the market," he said.
IBM backed its push with announcements that it is launching low-end software offerings from its Lotus, Tivoli and DB2 brands.
Big Blue also reaffirmed its announcement earlier this month that it will give a $500m cash injection to the channel under its new SMB Advantage scheme (CRN, 3 February).
IBM told CRN that about $25m of this pot will go to the UK channel for marketing, training, incentives and tools. Resellers will also get additional rebates if they sell to an SME.
However, Kevin Drew, managing director of IBM VAR Triangle, said: "IBM must make sure the money goes to the right partners.
"Unless it controls it, and has some structure, it won't work. It will be the same partners hitting the same market with the money being spread too thinly."
IBM also announced last week that a twin 'blade-and-brick' approach will form the heart of its xSeries Intel-based server strategy for 2003.
As companies continue to consolidate their servers, the x440 'brick-style' server will be the focus for high availability and the consolidation of large numbers of servers, while the xSeries blade servers are aimed at low-cost consolidation, Big Blue said.
Additional releases expected this year include blades for NAS, fibre channel and a four-way blade, designed by Intel, which can be dropped into the BladeCentre.
Craig Thomson, IBM UK channel manager, said the company will soon sign its 50th x440 reseller. "This time last year, we set out to find business partners. Next week we will sign our 50th EXAct reseller," he said.
Robin Porter, IBM business manager at reseller Repton, said: "Repton has sold 31 x440 systems. Of those, 28 or 29 were for consolidation. The company made £2m in xSeries sales last year."
Porter added that Repton had become the largest EXAct channel partner and third-largest overall xSeries partner.
Tikiri Wanduragala, IBM senior eServer and storage consultant, said: "There's a large amount of server consolidation, and blade and x440 servers cover 80 per cent of all Windows Intel and Linux Intel server requirements."
He added that BladeCenter, released in December, would outsell x440 servers because it is easier to introduce into customer sites.
But fast interconnection between processors, as found in the IBM x440 symmetrical multiprocessor server, was needed for consolidating large numbers of servers, he said.
Additional reporting by Peter Williams.
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