By Timothy Prickett Morgan IBM Corp’s AS/400 business partners have been under the gun to get certified by IBM to sell and service AS/400 equipment under new guidelines that Big Blue established last summer. IBM is correctly seeking to emulate the certification processes put into place by Novell Inc and Microsoft Corp to ensure that […]
By Timothy Prickett Morgan
IBM Corp’s AS/400 business partners have been under the gun to get certified by IBM to sell and service AS/400 equipment under new guidelines that Big Blue established last summer. IBM is correctly seeking to emulate the certification processes put into place by Novell Inc and Microsoft Corp to ensure that resellers of their respective wares not only know how to talk the talk to sell products, but walk the walk to support them once they have long since made the sale. Business partners were supposed to have at least one certified technical and one certified sales specialist on staff by November 25; a lot of companies didn’t make that date and a lot of them are waiting for the axe to fall. For quite some time, IBM has been unsatisfied by the financial and technical performance of many of its smaller AS/400 resellers, and has similarly been disturbed by a few gray areas where distributors and resellers are skirting IBM’s complex rules that enable a company to buy AS/400s from IBM or a distributor and sell them to actual customers. IBM is rumored to right now be in the midst of paring down its many thousands of business partners, and is said to be doing so by tightening up rules for accepted value-adds for resellers to be eligible to obtain equipment from IBM at deep discounts, which they resell at a profit. (We have not been able to confirm these rumors with IBM as yet.) As one might expect, there has been an uprising of sorts among the AS/400 business partner community, which has its share of problems with the millennium looming and IBM updating operating system releases twice a year. And this is perhaps why IBM quietly announced a new channel marketing program that allows independent software vendors who do not meet IBM’s technical and sales certification requirements to team up with resellers in their geographic regions who do have the AS/400 expertise that customers will require to set up and maintain their systems. The program, which appears to have been slapped together so quickly that IBM uncharacteristically forgot to give it a name, took affect on December 15 in North America. IBM says that the new program is modeled after the PC server channel, which consistently sells low-cost financial solutions to small and medium businesses. With this program, a non-certified AS/400 software provider can team up with certified hardware providers to offer a complete software, hardware, financing and support solution; IBM has not said how it has divvied up support among software and hardware companies, but it is logical to assume that software problems get handled by the software vendor and hardware problems get handled by the AS/400 business partner and IBM – which again reflects how things are done in the PC space. Thus far, non-certified AS/400 software partners can only be involved in deals for AS/400e Apache and Northstar Invader 170 models, which are at the low-end of the AS/400 line. AccountMate Software Corp, which ported its eponymous accounting suite to the AS/400 in the wake of the AS/400e Apache server announcements last year, is the first software vendor to participate in the program. Now, the 2,000 resellers that AccountMate has for pushing its wares can do AS/400 model 170 deals, which they could not do in the past because AccountMate is not an AS/400 hardware business partner. All of these developments have come about because IBM is trying to motivate its partners to sell more AS/400s, but not to overextend when it comes to support. IBM is also trying to get rid of AS/400 business partners who don’t bring in the bucks to Big Blue (although it will never come right out and say that). Whether or not this new channel program will appease disgruntled AS/400 business partners who remain uncertified remains to be seen.