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IBM Overhauls Partner Program for Cognitive Computing Wave

Marc Dupaquier
Marc Dupaquier

IBM, seeking to differentiate itself from all the cloud and big data analytics noise, has overhauled its channel PartnerWorld partner program to focus on cognitive computing. The effort will help partners -- including 10,000 MSPs and CSPs -- to shift from product and technology efforts toward true competency expertise in specific markets, according to Marc Dupaquier, GM of IBM Global Business Partners.

The company also made a range of hardware, software and services announcements at PartnerWorld Leadership Conference 2016 in Orlando, Fla.

Mainframe, Security and Blockchain

  • IBM unveiled a new midmarket mainframe, called the Z13s, focused heavily on encyption and IBM Security Software. A Ready for Security Intelligence partner program is now extended to the new mainframe, according to Tom Rosamilia, senior VP of IBM Systems.
  • Rosamilia also mentioned IBM's expanding push with Blockchain technologies.

New IBM PartnerWorld Partner Program

  • Marc Dupaquier described how a range of disruptions -- cloud, mobile, data, digital, etc. -- has pushed partners from being product and technology centric toward being competency centric in specific markets. There are roughly 44 competencies to start. But that figure could rise or decline as specific trends emerge, he added.
  • The partner program now includes registered, silver, gold and platinum levels.
  • Partners need to blend size, success and customer satisfaction to move up levels, he added.
  • IBM started building the new program about a year ago based on feedback from a few dozen partners.
  • The program will have different target revenue levels from region to region, since opportunities are larger in some regions vs. others, he noted.

Sales to MSPs, CSPs and ISVs

Over 10,000 MSPs and CSPs are now working with IBM today, according to John Mason, GM, independent software vendors and cloud service providers.

Mason is focused on connecting the dots between IBM cognitive computing, ISVs, MSPs and cloud computing. Particularly in the emerging API economy, the solutions are not single-vendor offerings. "The opportunity is to connect partners to other partners -- to connect an ISV to a cloud service provider and so forth."

Keep checking back. More updates from IBM's press conference are emerging.

Questions From Media

During the press conference, IBM addressed a range of questions. Here's a paraphrased recap.

Q: Can IBM convince hardware and infrastructure partners to embrace cognitive computing?

A. Many IBM partners are MSPs that are consuming IBM's hardware, the company added, and that sets the stage for more infrastructure consumption. Also IBM believes the journey will be similar to the software journey from more than a decade ago, when hardware partners began to move into the software stack.

Q: Can IBM embrace smaller, next-generation ISVs?

A. IBM is working through several IT conferences, marketing, digital outreach and word of mouth to build momentum with the smaller, newer ISVs. They key thing they request is how to start to get to market. IBM mentioned a specific ISV count (but I missed it).

Q: If 35 percent of analytics sales currently involve partners, how will that figure change?

IBM didn't answer the question head-on, and instead said analytics will remain a closed model -- meaning that partners have to have skin in the game and must pass certifications to move forward successfully with IBM on the analytics front.

Q: What percentage of partners will move forward with IBM's new partner program?

IBM didn't answer the question head-on, but the company says it made a multi-million dollar investment revamping the program and preparing education. "When partners have the right skills this is a very profitable experience for them," said Dupaquier.

Stay tuned for more updates.

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.