The company's emphasis on green IT is designed to lower users' energy costs while boosting sales of its valued technology.
IBM introduced a series of new business initiatives last week that will be a roadmap for the company and its Business Partners for at least the next several years. The plans call for aggressively reaching out to small and medium businesses (SMBs) here and abroad with simpler, more energy-efficient solutions that can be deployed quickly and easily.
Announced at the IBM Business Partner Leadership Conference in Los Angeles, the initiatives represent months of planning by IBM strategists from across the corporation and include a combination of new ideas, new technology, training, and incentives that call for a significant investment on the part of Business Partners to acquire new skills and product improvements but could pay off handsomely in the form of IBM support and access to emerging markets around the world.
Among key initiatives are the following:
Blue Business Platform: An initiative to deploy an open platform (generally acknowledged to be Linux) intended to support a variety of applications across multiple hardware form factors (see Lee Kroon's article "IBM Debuts Blue Business" in this issue). The first offering is IBM Lotus Foundations Start, an appliance server for small businesses that will be available during the second quarter and contain email, security, backup, recovery, file management, and office productivity applications. IBM has an Application Integration Toolkit set of open-standard interfaces designed to ease integration of existing applications.
IBM Enterprise Data Center Strategy: An initiative to become the major player in replacing a good portion of the aging and energy-inefficient technologies in the world's global 1000 corporations' data centers during the next five years.
Rapid-Growth Market Strategy: A multi-part effort to take advantage of growth opportunities in existing and emerging markets. This includes:
• Emphasis on the sale of technology to resellers of embedded systems
• Ramping up the sale of unique solutions into emerging markets abroad
• Integrated Product Export Program designed to help make it easier for Business Partners to sell a solution in one country that was developed in another through cross-border product certifications
• Partner World Portal Enhancements to help Business Partners make better use of IBM resources on the Web
• Business Partner Innovation Center support to help solution providers stabilize their applications on the new Blue Business Platform and support energy initiatives
• Global Application Marketplace-an online catalog that sets the stage for a future Online Marketplace to serve as a single source for small businesses to research, acquire, and manage solutions. It will be a source for applications, services, peer ratings, and online business solutions advisors.
Energy Management Initiative: An umbrella initiative in line with the company's 2007 Project Big Green that has helped some 2000 companies reduce costs and their impact on the environment. Included are:
• A free online energy assessment benchmark tool to help optimize a client's energy efficiency
• New energy management software to measure and track power usage
• Expansion of IBM's Energy Efficiency Certificate Program
• Business Partner Skills Program (third quarter) to enable solution providers to evaluate and solve data center energy challenges and become expert in supporting the Enterprise Data Center Strategy
• Alliance Program to Support Green Data Center Standards, an initiative to get participation among software and hardware vendors to establish interoperability and open standards in the areas of energy and facilities management, networking, virtualization, and security to make it easier for users to reduce energy and complexity in the data center
Let's look at these one at a time and discuss in more detail what each one involves. In addition to what Lee Kroon discusses in his article in this issue, I might point out that the Blue Business Platform offers an Application Integration Toolkit that is a set of open-standard interfaces designed to ease installation, systems management, and use of online services, such as remote data protection and threat protection. It is intended to make the various elements within the platform consistent and compatible, and solutions providers are being encouraged to use the Business Partner Innovation Center to ensure that their solutions work with the Application Integration Toolkit. IBM, by the way, is opening eight new Innovation Centers in South Africa, Turkey, the Ukraine, and other emerging markets to provide Business Partners there with the tools needed to help grow these markets.
The IBM Enterprise Data Center Strategy is based in part on a Gartner estimate that, within the next five years, more than 70 percent of the global 1000 companies will radically change their data centers. These companies are running out of space, running out of power, and need to reduce their energy costs. Newer technologies, such as IBM's BladeCenter, can dramatically reduce energy consumption while bumping up performance. Today's technology also happens to be more secure and resilient, reducing the risk of data loss or business interruption.
The program includes solution specialties with certification in technologies and practices that are similar, including consolidation and virtualization, energy efficiency, security, and resiliency. There will be two levels of competency, with the higher level designed for Business Partners who make "a significant commitment" to the skills and capabilities supporting the initiative.
IBM will provide data-center-specific marketing and sales support to those Business Partners that make the investment and achieve specialization competencies. They will even be given help with the investment they are making in education. Business Partners will learn how to assess needs within these data centers and best advise clients on how to upgrade their centers to achieve the improvements in energy savings, security, and efficiencies that they seek. One obvious skill is the ability to measure energy consumption before and after a project is completed in order for the client to claim subsequent energy efficiency certificates.
"The strategy behind the new enterprise data center program is the type of leadership we expect from IBM," said Roger S. Luca, senior vice president, Mainline Information Systems, a global provider of information technology and business solutions. "Clearly IBM understands the need to embrace partners, both challenging us with new opportunities and providing the skills and enablement to be best of breed."
The Rapid Growth Market strategy, while incorporating the effort to develop skills among Business Partners to take advantage of upcoming opportunities within data centers, goes beyond the data center. In recent years, resellers who market embedded systems in areas such as retail, next-generation networks, medical devices, healthcare, life sciences, and digital video have been helping to fuel a growing $250 billion market that is growing between 15 and 20 percent annually. The Industry Solution Reseller Initiative is designed to broaden and simplify access to leading IBM technology for embedded systems resellers and their clients.
The other aspect to the rapid-growth strategy is to make it easier to sell solutions into emerging markets. An Integrated Product Export Program leverages the company's ability to help Business Partners that develop applications in one country to deploy them in a different country by providing the conditions and approval scenarios to pursue new growth opportunities and centralize key resources.
A Cross-Border Product Certification Program addresses the requirements of Business Partners who have subsidiaries or relationships in several different countries by aggregating country-specific certification resources in a single location to satisfy IBM requirements across multiple geographies where the firm does business.
The portal enhancements that IBM announced should make it easier for Business Partners to use the PartnerWorld Portal by streamlining access to the highest-valued program benefits and consolidating all resources supporting campaign tactics into a single location. It also provides a no-cost method of syndication for Business Partners to use IBM assets such as white papers and detailed product descriptions on their Web sites.
The Energy Management Initiative includes IBM's creation of an alliance among leading industry hardware and software vendors to support industry standards for new enterprise data centers. A focal point of the program is the importance of support for interoperability and open standards within new data centers when talking about energy management, virtualization, networking, security, and service management. Among the companies that have agreed to be a part of the alliance are Brocade, Citrix, Eaton, Emulex, Juniper Networks, Novell, RedHat, Sun, and VMware.
"VMware and IBM are helping customers make their data centers and desktops more cost-effective, energy-efficient, and disaster tolerant," said Stephen Herrod, PhD., chief technology officer at VMware. "Like IBM, VMware is committed to broad interoperability and support for open standards...."
IBM also introduced its new Systems Director Active Energy Manager (AEM) software that tracks energy consumption in data centers and helps customers monitor power usage. IT managers even can set caps on energy use for services, storage, and networking along with facilities equipment such as air conditioners and power management systems. The software supports monitoring of devices connected to select smart power strips.
An Energy Efficiency Benchmark tool is a free, online tool that provides insight into a company's IT-related energy status. Independently produced by The Bathwick Group, it can be found at ibmgreen.bathwick.com.
IBM, along with Neuwing Energy, has expanded the Energy Efficiency Certificate program to reach customers in 34 countries. The program allows clients to measure their energy use while earning energy efficiency certificates for reducing the energy used to run their data centers. The certificates can be traded for cash or retained to demonstrate their commitment to reducing energy and CO2 emissions.
The recent initiatives represent a lot of hard work on the part of IBM to come up with some forward-thinking programs to better serve the company's business clients around the world, its Business Partners on whom it depends, and, of course, IBM investors. To help articulate the message and get Business Partners on board for the investments in learning and other requirements, IBM will be conducting a series of educational sessions later this month, which will be announced soon.