IBM extends incentive programs to service partners

IBM MSP partners can get loans, education and marketing help from the company

IBM has launched a new set of incentives and aids to help its service partners make better use of the company's cloud services and products.

IBM's managed service provider (MSP) partners can now get financing, marketing assistance and technical expertise when pursuing clients, according to the company.

"We're seeing a dramatic shift in how customers are buying solutions, one that is driven through the MSP channel," said Mike McClurg, IBM vice president of global sales and strategy. As a result, IBM wants to help MSPs connect with more customers and in turn connect those customers with IBM's offerings.

For the past few years, IBM has pursued business in the growing SMB (small and medium-sized) market chiefly through partners. Integrators and regional resellers can repackage IBM services and technologies for specific market verticals and geographic areas.

This new set of packages extends this approach to MSPs, a growing subset of IBM partners. "We're seeing in the midmarket space a rapid explosion of buying and renting of managed services. It gives midmarket customers access to skills they might not have, to applications they might not be able to get" otherwise, McClurg said.

To date, IBM has partnered with more than 1,400 MSPs. MSPs can sell IBM SmartCloud services under their own brand names, and, through this program, they can make use of some of IBM's newer offerings, including IBM SmartCloud services and the company's PureSystems packages, introduced earlier this year.

IBM sees a large market for smaller organizations, such as smaller hospitals, that want to use cloud services but lack the internal expertise to do so. MSPs can provide the expertise and they can bill on a pay-as-you-go model, another benefit for smaller organizations.

This new package of incentives aims to alleviate some of the challenges MSPs face, including obtaining technical expertise, improving marketing efforts and reducing financial concerns.

For this initiative, IBM is launching four new "Global Centers of Excellence," according to a company announcement. Located in New York City, Shanghai, Tokyo and Ehningen, Germany, these facilities will provide consultations, training and hands-on experience on IBM systems tailored specifically to MSPs, who will also have access to the 40 IBM Innovation Centers in 33 countries around the world, which provide more general technical expertise.

On the marketing side, IBM pledged to help MSPs with their marketing efforts, providing tutelage on how to use social media and develop marketing plans. MSPs can also use IBM analysis services to identify new customers. The company is also setting up an MSP partner director, so MSPs can find other partners to collaborate on projects. IBM is devoting part of its US$100 million annual marketing budget to these projects.

The company will further offer MSPs financing options through its IBM Global Financing arm, allowing them to obtain IBM systems, software and services under 12-month payment plans with no interest. Payments for PureSystems purchases can be deferred up to 90 days.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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