Fragmented distribution makes life hard for IBM software channel

Fragmented distribution makes life hard for IBM software channel

IBM software partners have given the vendor's specialized distribution model mixed reviews, claiming fragmented product access makes solution selling more complicated.

While applauding IBM's decision to sharpen distribution skills, CEO of Brisbane-based software reseller Cirrus, Darren Phillips, said he was frustrated by the product sourcing issues it had introduced. Cirrus' customer rollouts often involve multiple software brands, such as WebSphere and DB2 or Tivoli.

"In the old model, I would work with one distributor [Avnet] and they would help to put the whole deal together and come up with something comparable," he said. "What IBM did is change this to get more value out of distribution. What it has meant though is that I now have to go through multiple distributors."

Owner of Melbourne-based software reseller Advent One, Bob Bassett, has also found dealing with the multiple distributors difficult.

"On the plus side, the people I talk to have become more knowledgeable, and I can see why it's been done," he said. "On balance, I'd like less complexity, so I am moderately in favour of the old system.

"We have our own skill set, so having that at a distribution level doesn't matter so much to me."

In January last year, IBM gave six distributors various access to its five key brands. WebSphere and Rational software lines went to Avnet, itX and Express Data. Products under the Tivoli masthead were given to itX as well as new recruit, LAN Systems; itX and Express Data were awarded Lotus. Niche database distributors, Meier Business Systems (MBS) and Igatech, were tasked with distributing DB2.

After 12 months of skilling up and training, Phillips said the distribution changes became noticeable this year. Avnet's decision to cut ties with IBM software on January 1 also affected procurement, he said. Avnet country business manager, Gavin Lawless, declined to comment on the decision to walk away from IBM software. The distributor still has a large IBM hardware business.

Phillips said Cirrus had now been forced to build up credit accounts with distributors it had not previously dealt with, such as itX and LAN Systems.

"Pulling the multiple product deals together is crazy," he said.

IBM software channel manager, Sue Hope, said the model had introduced complications, but was pleased with the commitment distributors had made. In most cases, she said a reseller should be able to get sufficient product access from dealing with one or two distributors because it was rare for a customer to purchase all five product lines.

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