IBM i Solution Edition Program Picks Up Steam
January 18, 2011 Alex Woodie
The new IBM i Solution Edition program that IBM re-launched last August appears to have paid immediate dividends. Not only has participation by ISVs expanded four-fold, but it looks as though the program was well received by customers in the fourth-quarter. And with a new lower-cost, four-core Model 720 in the Solution Edition mix, the practice of selling enterprise applications pre-bundled and pre-integrated with IBM hardware and software looks to be one of the best things the platform has going for it in 2011.
While IBM won’t release its fourth-quarter results until the markets close this afternoon, there are indications that the IBM i Solution Edition program was a hit with customers in the fourth quarter, which is traditionally the best quarter for server and systems sales.
“We had a really nice fourth quarter with the Solution Editions,” Guy Paradise, worldwide marketing manager for IBM i, tells IT Jungle. “The six- or eight-core solution sold real well for us.” IBM also sells larger Model 740 server as part of the program, and a four-core Model 720 was added in November, midway through the fourth quarter.
Paradise obviously could not share specific details ahead of today’s release of IBM financial results for the quarter. And even with specific figures, there would be nothing to compare them to, since the Solution Edition program was launched with only a week left in the third quarter.
But all things considered, there appears to be solid momentum behind the IBM i Solution Edition program. “I think the overall program has been received very well,” says Paradise, who spearheaded the creation of the program in 2010. “Every conversation I’m involved with is extremely positive.”
All About Partners
Paradise expects Solution Edition sales to continue to grow as existing partners find their feet and new ISV partners are brought online. And the participation by vendors has certainly increased over the months.
When the program launched in September, the world’s biggest ERP vendors were well represented, with SAP, Oracle, Infor, and Lawson eligible to sell their IBM i applications as part of IBM i Solution Edition bundles anywhere in the world. The original IBM i software vendors eligible to sell only in North America included some well-respected names in the IBM i ERP world, including Healthcare Management Systems, International Business Systems, Jack Henry & Associates, SolarSoft, and VAI.
When IBM tweaked the program in November to introduce the four-core Model 720, it also added about 10 new ISV partners to the North American contingent, including:
Since November, the number of IBM i vendors on the Solution Edition list has quietly doubled once again, and now numbers 27. IBM also added its iCluster (the former DataMirror product) and PowerHA SystemMirror for i products to the global list. Here are the new vendors that have been added to the North American ensemble (IBS was promoted from the North America list to the global list.):
One IBM business partner who has high hopes for the Solution Edition program is Lou Stover, marketing manager for DST, a developer of ERP software for suppliers of automotive and trucking parts that’s based in Orange County, California.
“It puts more emphasis on a smooth, painless start-up for end user customers,” she says. “In the automotive parts market, there’s not a lot of technical expertise sometimes. With the Solution Edition, we can get this out the door fast, and have a smoother install. Everything is lower risk, more tested, and more integrated.”
‘Four Core and Seven Years Ago …’
Whether the addition of the four-core Model 720 server to the Solution Edition lineup will turn out to be the biggest boon to IBM marketing since the launch of the original “Bumblebee” servers of the early 2000s has yet to be seen.
But judging by the cost competitiveness of the four-core offering–which carries a minimum spending level of $6,500, compared to $25,000 for the six- and eight-core Model 720 bundle–it is likely to spur more sales.
“The six- or eight-core bundle was the most popular” in the fourth-quarter, Paradise says. “And that perhaps was because the four-core solution edition didn’t become available until later in the fourth quarter.”
The availability of a $6,500 four-core offering could provide ISVs a psychological advantage during deals. “Even if the customer doesn’t order the entry-level offering, it’s still good to have it,” Stover says, noting that it’s a common practice for Windows software makers to start with a low entry-level price and then charge for additional features.
While the four-core system will enable the IBM i platform to compete more effectively on price with Windows-based ERP solutions–particularly on entry-level deals involving 30 users or so–Paradise is adamant that the Solution Edition is not just about numbers and discounts. (Customers can see as much as a 35 percent discount by buying IBM i hardware and ERP software through this program.)
“Price is not solely the driver. If all we did was create a box and put a discount on it, perhaps we’d sell some more,” Paradise says. “But this is more about joint go-to-market plans, leveraging their industry presence and expertise, and the IBM brand.
“It’s more than just a box and a discount,” Paradise continues. “It’s more about a partnership and a pretty deep relationship between IBM and ISV that signifies investment on both sides, innovation on both, and optimization for Power 7 and IBM i 7.1. In many cases, our two labs have worked together and partnered with a participating ISV to deliver rapid installation packages and implementation.”
For more information or to sign up for the IBM i Solution Edition program, see www-03.ibm.com/systems/power/hardware/editions/solutions.html.