IBM looks to build out its cloud through partners

Big Blue will offer grants for resellers to invest in IBM technology, launch marketing campaigns

Some have been waiting for IBM to make its big move in the cloud. Today Big Blue took a step in that direction.

The company announced a training and partnership program aimed at increasing its channel network selling its broad set of cloud offerings. IBM is making technical training and grants available to fund investments in technology and marketing in an effort to build out its channel.

The move is the latest by a tech heavyweight reassessing its cloud strategy, as Dell in recent weeks made an announcement to beef up its public cloud storage and HP has created a new organization within its cloud division focusing on products and technology.

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IBM officials say its move to push its partner ecosystem fits in with the company's broader cloud strategy. The company already offers services for customers to build private clouds by using IBM's PureSystems technology, which is integrated compute, storage and network hardware branded as PureFlex. It also offers virtual machines and storage on the infrastructure layer, software as a service (SaaS) enablement tools and a platform as a service (PaaS) for developers to build new applications in IBM's cloud.

But today's move is aimed squarely at building up its channel partners. IBM is looking to expand its partner ecosystem into the mid-tier of service providers, which 451 Research Group analyst Carl Brooks says is a good move. Enterprises are increasingly looking to managed service providers to make investments in infrastructure and cloud-based services as opposed to going directly to the cloud service providers themselves. IBM is looking to expand the number of partners that can push services based on its technologies. "This is where the market's going," Brooks says. He says the company's broad set of offerings through PureSystems and Smart Cloud give IBM enough ammo to make a formidable play in the channel market.

IBM says it already has a network of midsize providers, including Velocity, CenterBeam, Peer 1 Hosting, Perimeter and Oxford Networks, and this move will only build those out. IBM says it hopes its total cloud revenue through all these avenues reaches $7 billion by 2015.

In addition to the technology investment and marketing grants, IBM will open four new Global Centers of Excellence in Shanghai, Tokyo, Ehningen, Germany, and New York to provide the training and then manage this new partner network.

Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

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