IBM has extended its Express line of products to cash in on buoyant demand for servers in the SME sector.
Business partners, who are responsible for 90 per cent of the vendor's SME sales, said business was booming, but that IBM's direct SME salesforce contained a few 'bad apples' who poached channel business.
Nick King, managing director of Apex Computers, said the Express products were selling well. "We've seen significant growth in the SME space in the last calendar year. The projects that were on hold are now coming to fruition. We're looking at growth of about 20-plus points."
IDC reported that the server market rebounded in 2003 after 4.5 per cent decline in 2002. Server sales were up by 12.8 per cent worldwide last year to $20.1bn, with SME buying boosting the recovery.
Higher sales were helped by prices falling in double digits almost every year since 1997, according to IDC. Prices were down by 13 per cent again in 2003.
Chris Ingle, a systems consultant at IDC, said mid-market demand was strong, but IBM's Express line, which until now consisted primarily of software, is developing slowly.
The extension of the Express line to include the pSeries and xSeries hardware servers was welcomed by resellers, but some complained that the vendor occasionally took business direct from their customers.
"There's the odd rogue individual who wants to take control and sell direct," said King. "It's minimal within the overall scope of the business, but even the occasional rogue direct sales person poaching can have an effect on culture and attitude."
Another Big Blue partner, who asked to remain anonymous, said: "The [IBM] brands are driven to bring the deal in. IBM sometimes works closely with resellers, sometimes not. It has been the perennial problem as long as I've been in the industry."
Julian David, vice-president of SME business at IBM, said 80 to 90 per cent of its server business goes indirect in the SME sector.
"Every single one of our sales people works with partners. It's our preferred channel," he said.
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