IBM has rolled out a new program for networking resellers with the aim of propagating its network computing message through its entire sales channel.
According to Gerhard Rumpff, IBM's general manager for software and networking, the NETeam business partner support program is designed to pull together all the aspects of networking hardware that are essential for network computing solutions.
"Our strategy is all about giving our customers a total solutions layer," Rumpff said. "The issue really is pulling all the different pieces together - legacy systems on the one side, and the new front-end systems like Lotus Notes on the other. They (users) need a partner to help them do that - to give them a strategy - not just bits and pieces."
Hence, NETeam is designed to help the partners help the users. "It's all about getting key partners committed to that strategy, and making our networking hardware an integral part of it," Rumpff said. "We want to solutions-enable more and more of our partners, so that the partners go to our customers and are able to articulate our total strategy."
According to Jo Pollard, IBM's network hardware division channels program manager, NETeam is designed to target the reseller base through IBM's value-added distribution channels, ITG and Sealcorp, along with its current integration partners. Resources available to NETeam members include monthly mailings, hot sheets, campaign marketing news, product previews, technical information, pre-sales phone support and education. There is also an exclusive NETeam Web site, and a 1800 support line.
"What we want to do is leverage everything that IBM has to offer for the resellers, so they can bring all the pieces together and take that to the customer base," Pollard said.
While NETeam has been in development for over a year, Pollard said it was important to wait until now to roll the program out, to ensure that all the elements were available from day one.
Since that launch, on July 23, IBM has signed up over 120 NETeam partners, including MNIT Network, Synergy and JNA. Sixty joined within three days. IBM's Paul Kangro said IBM's distributors have also received interest from resellers of other vendors' products, who are looking for an alternative.
The program itself is similar to IBM's BESTeam program for software partners. Rumpff said the two programs are designed to be complementary. "The NETeam program is one component of the total IBM offering, the Network Computing solutions that IBM has to take to market."
Rumpff said IBM has tripled the headcount of its partner division over the last eight months, to assist in this push.
NETeam itself has three levels of membership, Associate Member, Authorised Member and Premier Partner. The first level is designed to deliver easy access to IBM networking product information and support. "At that initial level the only requirement is that their sales people attend sales training, and that their technical people have an overview of the product set," said Pollard.
Authorised Members will be required to make additional investments in training, while proven competence in IBM networking systems will push a company towards Premier Partner status.