IBM Rallies Its Collective Forces to Encourage SMB Power Systems Upgrades

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With attractive incentives and simple, powerful messages, IBM is taking its "upgrade your i" message on the road.


With server sales lagging in a tight economy, IBM is rallying the troops to show SMB customers what they're missing by not upgrading their outdated AS/400 and i Series servers to newer Power Systems computers running IBM i.


Called the iLoyalty program, the North American initiative was announced last Friday and includes several promotional discounts that will run through June.


"The target market is the smaller SMBs with five- to seven-year-old AS/400s and iSeries computers," says Todd Morris, director of worldwide sales for IBM Power Systems. "It's a great opportunity for customers to leverage discounted servers that can both improve the performance of their business applications and reduce overall monthly costs," he says.


For a limited time, existing customers can move to select editions of the Power 520 and Power 550 as well as BladeCenter solutions with IBM i processor entitlements associated with the upgrade offered at half off. In addition, North American customers can get attractive discounts on certain software titles. For more information, click here.


The offer for existing customers can be appealing when one considers that upgrading to IBM i in a BladeCenter form factor can be significantly less expensive than what the customer may be paying for maintenance alone on an existing five- or six-year-old iSeries box.


Morris says the typical customer has an older i computer surrounded by perhaps a dozen Windows servers. The idea is to integrate the entire scrambled set of Intel boxes and the iSeries computer into an energy-efficient BladeCenter configuration that runs everything.


"One of the things that is unique--that only we can do--is, in a BladeCenter chassis, we have the ability to run not only the i operating environment on a Power blade, but we can also put an Intel-based blade in that BladeCenter and run a customer's Windows applications," says Morris.


"So part of the iLoyalty program involves going out and talking to the customer...and saying you could consolidate all those Windows workloads, upgrade your i box, put them all in a BladeCenter with some very attractive incentives, and have a nice consolidated and extremely efficient manageable, consolidated system," Morris says. "And some of those Intel-based boxes are from a lot of our competitors! We'd like to win those workloads and consolidate them onto a BladeCenter. HP can't do that."


Another thrust of the program is to show smaller customers how they can use the Power System hardware running IBM i and DB2 Web Query for business intelligence (see "Smart i Business Intelligence Solution Debuts in Los Angeles"). Morris says that business intelligence solutions have historically been out of reach for many SMBs who couldn't afford the cost. While there are several solutions that run dashboards on the production machine, some businesses are interested in creating a true data mart or data warehouse and want to do it in a separate environment. The new Power Systems servers are ideal for business intelligence solutions for those customers that already have their data on an iSeries.


"Business intelligence is an area that the little guy with a one- or two-way i box couldn't do because it was perceived to be too expensive," says Morris. "But now we have enough horsepower to do it in a one-way or two-way machine, and with some of these software incentives paired with Power Systems, it is quite affordable."


One area in which smaller businesses often come up short is systems management--policies and procedures, says Morris. As a result, "The storage that is hanging off those Windows boxes frequently goes down, it breaks, it's not properly backed up. That's a real pain point for many of these smaller shops," he says.


One solution that IBM can offer, he says, is for the customer to consolidate their Windows workloads onto Intel-based blades in the IBM BladeCenter. Then, the customer buys a Power Systems 520 server and connects it to the BladeCenter with an iSCSI interface and controls all the storage on the 520.


"We call it 'SAN in a can'!" says Morris. "At once, you get all the benefits of the IBM i systems management--including backup and recovery--and the systems management goodness that comes with the i operating environment running on the 520. It's a very slick package."


Morris notes that the storage on the 520 is going to be more expensive than what it typically costs on a Windows server, but the benefits of having a functioning, well-running, and properly managed storage subsystem under the control of the 520 make it well worth the extra cost per gigabyte. "And it works great back and forth with the BladeCenter," Morris says.


Gearing up to get this message out to thousands of existing AS/400 and iSeries customers will not be easy. Morris believes the secret to success will be coordinating all the sales resources that IBM has at its disposal into a single, unified effort.


"What we've done here in the past couple of months that's new is we've made a real effort to go out and enlist the other members of the IBM sales team to help us with this effort," says Morris. "In the fourth quarter [when the program launched in Europe], it was primarily the hardware sellers going out and trying to sell it. We now have the sellers that are aligned with our partners, and we now have the relationship sellers very tightly linked with us from the very senior levels of IBM to get their sales team support to help us go out and sell. That's the big change, and in terms of IBM's sales success, that makes all the difference."


Morris says the company has just in the past two weeks put together a five-person virtual iCare office . (iCare, along with weCare, are the European versions of the North American iLoyalty program.) Morris says the team is dedicated to making sure the iLoyalty programs work by supporting sales teams with incentive ideas; marketing data; and recently updated, simple, highly persuasive collaterals to help ensure the sales force is effective.


"This is a major commitment by the IBM company in helping this succeed," says Morris, who says he has spent a good share of his time in the past few months generating support for the effort within IBM.


"Everyone right now is singing nothing but praises on what we're doing," says Morris. "It's just a matter of [finding] hours in the day to get it all done."