Los Angeles – IBM’s (NYSE: IBM) new focus and push around the enterprise data centre with come with a new Business Partner program that’s still being developed and will be launched later in the year, but Big Blue says partners shouldn’t wait to develop the required skill sets within their organizations.
A new focus on services is a key part if IBM’s enterprise data centre play says Debra Thompson, vice-president, enterprise systems division, IBM systems and technology group. The vision revolves around server consolidation, virtualization, energy efficiency, infrastructure assessments, business resiliency, security and reducing power usage.
With IBM using its channel as a strong route to its enterprise customers in hardware and software, Thompson says it only makes sense for IBM to do the same on the services side.
“We want to launch this play very broadly,” said Thompson.
She’s currently working on developing the specifics of the partner program, which will include solution certification and skills development, and Thomson says with IBM looking to divert its co-marketing dollars to the partners that join this program she wants to make sure partners have the right mix of skills to deliver the enterprise data centre to their clients.
“This is the beginnings of a long-term look at how we work with business partners in the enterprise space,” said Thompson.
The data centre has long been an overlooked area for IBM says Mark Wylie, COO of Doral, Fl.-based IBM partner Compuquip Technologies. With IBM’s new focus on the space however Wylie says Compuquip is also launching a strong push in the space, leveraging the partner’s relationships with Microsoft and Cisco Systems as well.
If partners are going to succeed in the data centre, Wylie says there are six key skill sets they’re going to need to develop, and excel in:
Virtualization: Virtualization has got to be at the core of what you’re doing.
Networking: Networking is clearly going to be another key skill, that’s the foundation.
Clustering: The clustering aspect of virtualization will be essential, as partners will need to make the infrastructure redundant as well as work from the same data models.
Microsoft: Wintel and Windows OS skills won’t be diminishing in importance.
Security: It’s only becoming more important, and is accounting for an ever greater proportion of partner business.
Systems management: Key skills to have because in the end, systems management is the glue that holds it all together.
No one vendor has all the pieces of the puzzle, says Wylie, so partners will need to take a multi-vendor approach, and its important vendors strive for industry standards and interoperability.
“To me the partners’ role is coming in to a degree somewhat agnostic,” says Wylie. “You come in, look at the situation, and says here’s what’s needed to fix the infrastructure before we can manage it, and from there we can manage it.”
And indeed it won’t just be about IT skills, says Thompson. Consulting will be more important, with training on total cost of ownership, how to do assessments, and how to approach the customer. The data centre opportunity will also require partners to know how to have a conversation with facilities managers, for example, about energy efficiency.
“We’re trying to help customers understand, and that’s why assessments and the consultancy aspect are so important,” she said. “What are your pain points, and which ones are the worse?”
Currently, Thompson says each IBM business unit around the world has been tasked to identify three to five local partners to join the program that either have the required skills or are willing to invest to get them. Partners not selected through this process are still welcome to apply, but Thompson says asking the business units to lead the identification process, rather than the partner organization, was a conscious decision.
“I want the team that calls on the customers to feel accountability and loyalty to those partners, and if they’re leading the identification process its going to be partners they know and they trust,” said Thompson.