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IBM PartnerWorld: Beyond Analytics, Cloud

Ginni Rometty
Marc Dupaquier
Marc Dupaquier

At IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference 2016, CEO Ginni Rometty and Channel Chief Marc Dupaquier will set the stage for a deeper discussion about analytics, cognitive computing, cloud services, security and channel partners. The big wildcard: Can IBM build a new generation of channel partners -- particularly ISVs and MSPs -- that interact and transact on IBM's cloud infrastructure?

The conference, also known as IBM PWLC 2016, runs Feb. 15-18 in Orlando, Fla. ChannelE2E will be on hand. Dupaquier and Rometty will kick off the event (#PWLC16) before turning the stage over to:

  • Ironside Group CEO Tim Kreytak. The IBM Premier Business Partner will put the spotlight on cognitive computing.
  • IBM Analytics GM Neil Isford, reinforcing the rise of cognitive computing.
  • IBM Cloud Senior VP Robert LeBlanc, hopefully driving home the rise of ISVs and MSPs on big blue's cloud infrastructure. But that's just our guess.
  • IBM Watson Chief Marketing Officer Stephen Gold, connecting the dots between Watson and cognitive computing.

Cognitive Computing and Channel Partners

Take a closer look at that first-day lineup and IBM's top priorities are clear. Analytics and big data, IBM asserts, are moving toward the cognitive computing era -- the simulation of human thought processes in a computerized model.

The cognitive computing wave stretches far beyond enterprise-class customers. Thanks to cloud services from IBM, Amazon, Microsoft, Google and others, we should see more and more "on demand" cognitive platforms that consumers and small businesses can leverage. One example system is LogicNow's LogicCards, a machine learning system that monitors servers, desktops and other systems. Then, LogicCards makes prescriptive recommendations to MSPs -- describing upsell and cross-sell opportunities that serve small business customers.

Still, the overall channel partner ecosystem is in catch-up mode on big data, machine learning, analytics and now cognitive computing. For every Ironside Group that's ahead of the cognitive computing curve, there are thousands of partners that have yet to sort through the basics of analytics, and potential big data opportunities.

No doubt, IBM is hoping to change that -- rallying more partners to the world of data-driven customer systems.

IBM Cloud: Where ISVs and MSPs Meet?

Although IBM's top-line revenues continue to fall, the company's strategic imperatives -- cloud, analytics, mobile, social, security -- continue to make progress. Those areas grew 26 percent to $29 billion in 2015 and now represent 35 percent of IBM's total revenue.

Although IBM Cloud (including the SoftLayer platform) now ranks among the big cloud services providers in terms of scale and revenue, there are gaps in the strategy. Among the challenges: IBM has long struggled to engage the MSP market. The company originally expected to sell servers to MSPs -- only to discover that most MSPs were abandoning their own data center build outs and instead plugging into bigger cloud services providers.

Gradually, IBM's message to MSPs has improved. And at the same time, IBM has continued to attract more ISVs onto its cloud. Examples include Continuum Managed Services -- which runs its business continuity platform for MSPs in IBM's cloud.

The obvious opportunity for IBM: Engage Continuum and other ISVs that have MSP-friendly software. The result? More and more MSPs could tap into ISV systems running on IBM's cloud, or the MSPs could work directly on the big blue platform.

Azure, Amazon Web Services and MSPs

Either way, IBM's cloud team has to move fast on the ISV-MSP ecosystem buildout. After all, Amazon has a rapidly growing base of MSPs plugged into Amazon Web Services -- including fast-growing names like Bulletproof. Similar, Microsoft is now pushing channel partners to stretch beyond Office 365 to embrace Azure-related services. True believers include Aldridge, which just acquired Arterian to expand its MSP practice into new cloud areas.

At the same time, MSP-friendly software providers like ConnectWise, Kaseya and LogicNow (among others) now offer Office 365 management tools for channel partners. It's time for IBM to respond more loudly, and more clearly, with cloud-friendly MSP relationships of its own.

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.