IBM Puts Entire Channel on Path to Convergence


IBM has announced that it will finally start selling high-end Power series servers through volume distributors such as Ingram Micro and Tech Data. But while that event has been a long time in coming, the most significant aspect of these expanded distribution relationships is that they now include the full rnage of IBM PureFlex platforms, an integrated set of servers based on Power and x86 processors that not only combine server, storage and networking capabilities in one system but also includes an IBM PureApplication System that tightly couples IBM DB2 and WebSphere software to the underlying hardware system.

According to Bill Donohue, IBM vice president of North America business partner and mid-market sales, the IBM PureFlex systems are examples of an integrated solution that is fundamentally changing the economics of IT by tightly coupling IT infrastructure and software to create a new class of cloud computing platforms.

Donohue says IBM PureApplication systems based on Power processors are especially attractive to customers that want to invest in a high performance platform that have been optimized for specific workloads and applications that run on top of DB2 and WebSphere. IBM previously made x86 versions of these systems available in the channel, but this latest announcement makes the entire IBM PureSystems family of servers regardless of processor available through Ingram Micro and Tech Data.

Chuck Bartlett, vice president and general manager for the Advanced Information Systems Division at Tech Data, says this latest extension represents a natural progression of the relationship with IBM given the fact the customers are asking solution providers about the full range of IBM platforms. The simple fact is that there is no distinction between the size of customer and the amount of compute capacity they may actually require. Allowing volume distributors such as Tech Data to carry the full IBM system portfolio removes an artificial distinction that is no longer relevant in the channel.

While the majority of the market is still compromised of traditional x86 and RISC-based servers, Scott Zahl, vice president and general manager for the Advanced Computing Division in the U.S. for Ingram Micro, says the continued convergence of IT infrastructure is a very real trend. As that trend continues to evolve, Zahl says it will have a definite impact on how solution providers across the channel take products and services to market; a fact that is highlighted in this video roundtable discussion that includes a number of IBM channel partners. In addition, many IBM Business Partners are staring to use IBM PureSystems to capture application patterns that represent unique intellectual property for their organizations.

IBM PureSystems using either Intel Xeon or Power Series processors combine server, storage and network resources in one platform that some refer to as “New Age Mainframe.” Rather than requiring channel partners on behalf of their customers to integrate all these technologies, IBM PureSystems enable the customer to realize the value of their investment in IT faster by essentially eliminating a lot of provisioning and integration services that were previously required. It’s up the customer to decide if they want to include IBM DB2 and WebSphere on that integrated server, but at its most base level the IBM PureSystem tightly integrates to management of server, storage and networking resources.

Obviously, this new class of integrated servers has a lot of implications for the channel. Not only do customers that buy these systems require less in the way of technical integration services, over time they change the way their IT organization is organized. Instead of having people specifically dedicated to acquiring servers, networking and storage equipment, the purchasing decision becomes much more centralized. Arguably, because most solution providers are organized around the way customers acquire technology, it’s only a matter of time before solution providers need to start consolidating their server, storage and networking practices.

While IBM remains comparatively strong in what is generally a soft server market many see IBM Power servers are part of a whole RISC server category that is in decline. Therefore, the much more significant aspect of the IBM relationship with Ingram Micro and tech Data is going to be on a new class of integrated PureSystems servers that IBM says will transform the data center as we know it.

Just about everybody agrees it will take years for this transformation to take place. The challenge facing the average solution provider is how to navigate a transition that creates a significant amount of disruption to not only how servers are provisioned, but also how IT infrastructure is actually acquired.

As the saying goes to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Every major server vendor is pushing some form of converged infrastructure these days. As that shift continues to occur solution providers in the channel are going to figure out how to best organize their own practices in order to better address evolving customer requirements, but just as importantly maximize their own profits by significantly lowering the cost of meeting those needs.

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