While Big Blue plans a flurry of POWER6 server launches this year, its competitors stand ready to rain on its parade.
From what sources inside IBM have been saying lately, it looks like we are in for several POWER6 server announcements in the coming months. With that in mind, I'm opening this article with a preview of the first of these launches. After that, I'll discuss what two other industry giants are doing to make their own waves in the System i market. Come with me as we take a somewhat-cinematic look at what our favorite vendors have in store for us.
Coming Soon to a Data Center Near You...
A little over a week ago, IBM's senior executives came to New York to brief investment analysts on how Big Blue's business is doing. While much of what they said matters little to the System i community, one executive's short utterance definitely caught my ear. At the end of his presentation, Bill Zeitler, Senior Vice President of the Systems and Technology Group, stated, "We've got the high end of the POWER6 family coming in the beginning of April."
That raises some interesting possibilities for what IBM will tell System i professionals at COMMON's upcoming conference in Nashville. According to the agenda, IBM will hold a Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday, April 2 to unveil an initiative called "The New Power Equation." The initiative will be announced by Mark Shearer, Vice President, Marketing and Offerings for IBM's Business Systems Division, and Ross Mauri, General Manager of IBM Power Systems.
With Zeitler saying that high-end POWER6 models are coming in the beginning of April, it is likely that Shearer and Mauri will unveil POWER6 versions of the System i Model 595 and the System p Model 590 at COMMON. Of course, IBM could also announce a single high-end system that meets the needs of both System i and p users. We will just have to wait to see what unfolds. Whether you are going to COMMON or not, keep an eye on the news wires on April 2!
This Summer: A Business Partner Brawl!
While IBM plans to woo medium-size companies with a refreshed lineup of System i and p models this year, it will face increased competition from another mid-market heavyweight: Hewlett-Packard. That could lead to lower server prices for companies that shop both vendors.
Late last month, HP used its Americas Partners Conference to announce its intent to lure resellers of its competitors' hardware over to its servers. To put teeth into its recruitment drive, the company stated that it will no longer ask resellers to offer its hardware exclusively. To demonstrate its new openness, HP announced that MSI Systems Integrators, a leading System i reseller, has signed up to sell HP gear side by side with its IBM wares.
In response, IBM came out swinging at the XChange Solution Provider conference in early March. At the event, IBM executives pledged to spend $100 million on marketing to medium-size companies this year, with most of the resulting sales going to Business Partners. The company also showcased a new lead development tool that aims to provide more sales prospects to a larger number of partners.
While it is not obvious at first glance, an IBM-HP squabble over channel partners could benefit mid-market customers. One way that both vendors convince resellers to favor their products is through incentives and rebates. Often, resellers pass a portion of those incentives through to their customers in the form of deeper discounts from list price. If IBM and HP boost their incentives to compete for resellers, discounts could increase as well. As such, customers who entertain competing proposals from partners of both vendors could get sweeter deals than last year.
In Theaters Soon...The Menace from Redmond Returns
While IBM is staring down HP on the server front, it is facing fresh challenges from Microsoft on collaboration software. This time, the challenge is coming in the form of Microsoft-hosted versions of its Exchange and SharePoint Server products. These offerings will appear soon in many medium-size companies, where they will present new challenges to System i professionals.
Microsoft has been saying for some time that it would add hosted versions of Exchange Server 2007 and SharePoint Server 2007 to its Online Services family of products. As a result, nobody was surprised when the software giant announced both products earlier this month and committed to shipping them during the second half of this year. However, Microsoft threw everyone for a loop when it said that it will offer Online Services to all companies rather than just those with 5,000 or more users. That reversed a statement the software giant made last year in which it gave its partners sole responsibility for Online Services sales to companies with fewer than 5,000 seats.
By marketing directly to small and medium-size businesses, Microsoft will make it easier for many companies that use the System i to try to buy Online Services. Indeed, the software giant is already offering limited beta trials of Exchange Server Online and SharePoint Server Online at http://www.mosbeta.com/. We expect that trial deployments of these and other Online Services will appear soon in many organizations that rely on the System i. At companies that run Lotus Notes and Domino, this could raise serious issues over collaboration platform choices. At other sites, System i professionals could be asked to evaluate Online Services and consider how to integrate them with i5/OS applications and databases. In short, Microsoft's new offerings could make life a little more interesting (perhaps too interesting) for many of you.
Thank you for joining me on this preview of coming vendor attractions. As I said earlier, keep an eye on what IBM announces in early April. MC Press will provide coverage of whatever the company unveils, so stay tuned.