IBM Fishes For Managed Service Providers; Nice Bait
October 1, 2012 Dan Burger
Managed service providers (MSPs) are lined up like suitcases at the baggage claim. Their destination is the small to midsize market. For years, IBM and the rest of the IT giants have searched for ways to crack that market, without a great deal of success. Managed services, via the cloud, are their best opportunity to date. Another indicator that managed service providers are gearing up for a coming change in IT buying behavior is IBM latest program designed for expanding its MSP network. Central to this program are two of Big Blue’s favorite topics: SmartCloud and PureSystems.
IBM claims there is a midmarket “explosion” of managed services buyers clamoring to get their hands on skills and applications that have been previously out of their reach. That may be a bit of an over-exaggeration of the current situation, but the guns are loaded and more ammunition is being passed to the business partners who are offering cloud-based, pay-as-you-go services.
Access to IBM technical expertise is what IBM hopes will be the main attraction for MSPs. It has opened new Global Centers of Excellence–Shanghai, China; Tokyo, Japan; Ehningen, Germany; and New York, New York–where MSPs are invited to develop services that incorporate IBM-specific technologies related to SmartCloud, PureSystems, IBM storage, security, and collaboration. The doors to IBM’s Innovation Centers (40 centers in 33 countries) are also propped open for the MSP community. And a virtual briefing center is also in place to facilitate the exchange IBM expertise and best practices.
Marketing and sales support assistance is the second piece in the MSP initiative. The emphasis is being placed on developing marketing plans that include targeting clients through social media. IBM promises access to its “analytics capabilities” that will help MSPs “identify new customers and capture additional opportunities with their existing customers.”
Dedicated support from IBM to guide MSPs through the program is part of the deal. Anyone with experience working with IBM, or any of the other IT giants, can attest to the importance of having a guide. IBM says it is spending $100 million annually marketing its “global ecosystem.”
No program would be complete without a financial incentive. MSPs that team up with Big Blue can qualify for 12-month, zero percent loans for IBM systems, storage, and software. A payment plan from IBM Global Finance can provide MSPs with monthly payment options that avoid large, up-front cash payments, the ability to upgrade systems mid-lease, and the potential for improved IT asset management. MSPs that select PureSystems platforms are also able to defer their first payment for 90 days.
IBM claims to have “relationships” with more than 1,400 managed service providers worldwide. Relationships are not partnerships, but IBM is working on that right now. I’m pretty sure of that.