IBM targets software channel

Regional ISVs and systems integrators figure prominently on IBM’s partnering priorities in 2005 as the IT behemoth looks to expand its software channel even further in the Middle East.

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By  Stuart Wilson Published  March 6, 2005

Regional independent software vendors (ISVs) and systems integrators figure prominently on IBM’s partnering priorities in 2005 as the IT behemoth looks to expand its software channel even further in the Middle East. During a three-day internal training event for more than 100 IBM staff in the region, Bashar Kilani, manager for Big Blue’s software group in the Middle East, Egypt, Pakistan and North Africa outlined the strategy for growth. “We are very interested in generating more growth in our [software] business by working closely with systems integrators — be they international or local,” said Kilani. “We have also seen more interest from ISVs looking to develop applications on DB2, WebSphere, Lotus and Tivoli.” “There is a great deal of focus on that and this year we are planning many enablement and technology support programmes to ensure that systems integrators and ISVs are certified, have the right skill levels and can deliver solutions based on IBM technology,” he added. For resellers still primarily focused on hardware resell, Kilani is keen to point out the potential benefits derived from evolving the business focus: “If you look at the resellers, the majority in this region are still hardware-focused, but that is not where the real value is. Today the value is in software and solutions and the opportunity exists for partners to move up the value chain and benefit from better profits and less intense competition.” While a few systems integrators with a broad base of IT services expertise have emerged in most major Middle East markets, the investment required to develop software and services skills internally has prevented more from making the transition, despite the attractive margins that can be made. For those that do focus on software and services, myriad sales opportunities are opening up. “Portals, web applications and e-business solutions are all hot topics,” explains Kilani. “E-business can incorporate a complete infrastructure spanning security, systems management, data management, content management through to the portal interface itself…This market has now reached a level of maturity that requires a more sophisticated systems management approach and we are seeing more people moving up the chain with IBM’s Tivoli products.” IBM is keen to translate its enterprise level expertise into midmarket penetration on a worldwide basis. IBM’s Express product portfolio offers its software as a ready-to-go bundle aimed specifically at the small and medium business (SMB) space. “Products such as WebSphere Express and DB2 Express offer outstanding technology at a price point that is suitable for the SMB,” said Kilani. “We are also working a great deal with resellers and business partners focused on these areas." As spending on software and services starts to account for a growing percentage of IT spend, the competitive landscape that exists between major software vendors will only intensify further in the Middle East. “It is already very competitive but a great deal depends on the vendor strategy,” concluded Kilani. “The ISVs do not want to find themselves competing with the platform and infrastructure vendor. One of the value propositions I see IBM putting on the table is that we are not in the application space, we are only in the infrastructure space, so ISVs can build applications on our technology knowing that IBM will never go and say we have a better application than the ISV partner.”

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