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2019 IBM partner program bolsters ecosystem approach

IBM is doubling down on its channel ecosystem strategy this week with a raft of partner program updates.

The IBM ecosystem strategy was launched last year to engage a broad range of partner business types. Those included resellers, managed services providers, ISVs, developers and cloud services providers. Building on 2018 investments, IBM this week rolled out a number of new partner resources, many of which focus on enablement and collaboration.

Among the new resources was a partner-to-partner tool, IBM Business Partner Connect. Partner Connect uses Watson technology to help link up partners across the ecosystem to collaborate on customer accounts, said Dorothy Copeland, vice president of the North American IBM partner ecosystem, in an interview. For example, she said if an analytics-focused partner has a client interested in blockchain, Partner Connect could help identify IBM firms with blockchain expertise.

“A lot of times we will see our IBM partners … subcontract another partner underneath them in order to provide the skill set that they need for their clients,” Copeland said.

Training, cybersecurity enablement

On the training and certification front, IBM introduced the IBM Skills Gateway training platform, Copeland said. IBM Skills Gateway provides sales and technical education for partners and IBM’s internal sales team.

“One big piece of our focus is making sure … that we are providing our employees and … our partners the skills-building that they need,” Copeland said.

Copeland also noted forthcoming Red Hat training. IBM stated its intention to acquire Red Hat for $34 billion in November 2018. She said the Red Hat training will focus on products that IBM and Red Hat currently offer together, such as IBM Cloud Private on top of Red Hat OpenShift open-source container application platform.

“That’s a key area that we want to make sure we are enabling partners,” Copeland said of the Red Hat training.

Additionally, IBM rolled out a Managed Security Services Provider (MSSP) Program. The MSSP program aims to help partners develop cybersecurity businesses and is open to all partners that have either an active reseller or embedded solutions agreement with IBM, according to the vendor. Under the program, partners can earn financial rewards dubbed the Know Your IBM Security Sales Incentive.

Security is a high-growth area for many IBM Business Partners in North America, Copeland noted.

Other IBM partner program developments

Additional IBM partner program updates revealed this week included the following:

  • IBM Cloud Paks, which IBM said are container software packages with support for using open standards in hybrid and multicloud deployments. IBM said Cloud Paks are designed for Kubernetes and use IBM Cloud and IBM Cloud Private.
  • Software deal registration with priority access to special bid pricing. Copeland said partners have asked the software deal registration since she joined IBM about 18 months ago.
  • My PartnerWorld, a means for partners to manage various digital PartnerWorld tools in one place, IBM said.
  • ‘In It to Win It’ incentives for Power, Z and IBM LinuxOne.
  • New co-marketing resources for partners that embed IBM technology into their offerings.
  • Value Package 2.0 support bundle, which lets partners double their IBM Cloud credits. Value Package 2.0 also provides access to a development sandbox environment, discount vouchers for select education events and expanded subscription discounts.
  • The Cloud Digital Technical Engagement Program with support for product demos and tutorials.
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