On Wednesday this week, we attended a Channel Expert Hour webinar (sponsored by IBM) and produced by Nine Lives Media, Inc. It made our Pick of the Week for three reasons:
The format of the webinar was informal, with ongoing Q&A by channel partners and users. We started off with an overview of the SMB move to the cloud by VP Joel Raper of Azaleos, Inc., a 300+ employee, Seattle-based Service Provider focused on Microsoft UC&C Stack Managed Services (Cloud, Design, Deployment and Lifecycle Management) to the Mid-Market.
This was followed by an overview of the IBM Mid-Market Cloud Partner Program, by Ed Bottini, a Cloud Ecosystem Program Director at IBM Global Services. As mentioned, within three or four slides, it was clear where IBM saw the opportunity, what offers were available to address it and what partners could do to take advantage of IBM’s resources to sell into the market.
In typical IBM fashion, this graph represents the big picture very well: They believe half the Opportunity is SaaS growing at a compounded 25% rate, three-quarters is XaaS, compounding at ~25% - IaaS is growing at 35%. The remaining is ~25% Private Cloud and Non XaaS, growing at 20%.
This is not an acknowledgement of the IBM estimates, the point is that they see huge opportunity growing very rapidly in their base and it comes through when they talk about it. This answers WHERE REVENUE opportunity is for SMB Channel Partners.
IBM’s Cloud Solution Stack includes the Foundation layer of Servers, Networking, Storage and Secure Data, using a virtualized environment of IBM hardware, software and networking including PureFlex and Bladecenter Foundations for Cloud, along with IBM Cast Iron to integrate different clouds and applications.
On top of the Foundation is the Infrastructure as a Service layer, SmartCloud Services, which includes Pay-as-you-go Managed Backup Services, Tivoli System Management and Cloud Automation “middleware”, Managed Security Services, and IBM SmartCloud Enterprise, which according to IBM delivers "enterprise-class public cloud infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS)—delivers secure and scalable hosted IT infrastructure with on-demand access to virtual server and storage resources."
The top layer is the Applications Tier, Software as a service (SaaS), SmartCloud Solutions, "a software model with applications centrally hosted in a cloud computing environment and accessed by users over the Internet." As described in the first section, IBM has identified SaaS as half the opportunity growing at 25% CAGR; this is where the rubber hits the road. IBM has never been known as an Application Software vendor, preferring to invest in Systems Software, Database Technology, Tools, Middleware, etc. – which they have done very successfully. In addition, acquisitions over time have steadily been used to both plug holes and repurpose for gaps in applications - Cognos, CoreMetrics, SPSS and Unica being examples in Analytics, along with Sterling for e-Commerce, Merchandising and Supply Chain Management. The bold decision (at the time) to fully embrace the Open Source movement in the '90s and leverage it with their tools like Websphere to participate in the rapid growth in web-based computing has also had a positive impact (i.e., SugarCRM). This answers WHAT SOLUTIONS offer the opportunity for SMB Channel Partners.
The approaches SMB Channel Partners can choose to work with IBM is next, and is evident in this chart. Ranging from Tools, to Infrastructure, to Cloud Building, to SaaS Application Providers, Partners have a variety of options from which to select. This chart is pretty self-explanatory, so we won’t go into redundant detail here. This third leg of the stool is a clear view of HOW the Opportunity can be addressed by Partners.
This is not meant to be an endorsement for IBM - they are not the only Systems Vendor that 1) has a strategy, 2) has an integrated solution stack and 3) has a Cloud Partner Program. As a firm that helps companies sell more effectively into the SMB space, what appealed to us was the simplicity of the message and the ease with which the story was communicated and re-enforced using credible, robust and tested Enterprise-level offers. In our opinion, IBM sounded a lot more like a young SaaS start-up than a hundred-year-old East Coast manufacturing company.
Postscript: When thinking through how the industry has consolidated around a few major system vendors, we wonder whether Cloud Computing strategy and execution have impacted confidence in the company?
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