IBM wants to get more software partners to use its hosting services, and is adding awareness programs and incentives to its PartnerWorld program to do so. The company is opening a new partner portal, Virtual Information Centers, to provide information on the financial, business, and technical ramifications of transitioning to software on demand.
IBM has made several changes to its PartnerWorld channel to entice software firms.
IBM is also ramping up regional workshops and, for software vendors, resellers, and integrators already enrolled in PartnerWorld programs, it will make new resources to IBM partner representatives.
According to David Mitchell, director of strategies for IBM’s Software as a Service (SaaS) program, roughly a hundred of the company’s 5,000 software partners are already, or are in process of, introducing software as service. The most prominent is SAP, which announced its CRM On Demand offering, hosted on IBM facilities, on February 2, 2006.
Among the major issues were how to structure subscription licensing fees, how to deal with cultural changes that a hosted model could have on account representatives and tech support, and how to adapt architecture and security features of software that transitions to hosted deployment.
In so doing, IBM is embracing a model different from that of Salesforce.com, the best-known and most vocal proponent of software as service. Although Salesforce.com is in the application software business and IBM is not, both face similar issues in dealing with third parties and end customer integration.
For instance, both have services-oriented integration frameworks for integrating third-party applications, with Salesforce.com Sforce and IBM WebSphere Business Integration. Both also have a strategy to host multiple third-party applications on their facilities, and both are throwing open portals that list on-demand offerings to end customers.
But, unsurprisingly, IBM and Salesforce.com have different go-to-market models. With Salesforce.com embracing a virtual, eBay-like model to host multiple third-party offerings, its strategy eliminates middlemen. By contrast, IBM’s PartnerWorld programs have always embraced channels and integrators.
So, in ramping up services to host multiple third party offerings en masse, IBM has to help its existing channel partners figure out where they fit in a software on demand world. The answer isn’t obvious.
But IBM is at least trying by throwing in an extra 10% commission or referral fee to any reseller or integrator that helps close a deal with software partners who have their products hosted by IBM.