No one vendor has all the pieces of the puzzle, says Wylie, so partners will need to take a multi-vendor approach, and its important vendors strive for industry standards and interoperability.
"To me the partners' role is coming in to a degree somewhat agnostic," says Wylie. "You come in, look at the situation, and says here's what's needed to fix the infrastructure before we can manage it, and from there we can manage it."
And indeed it won't just be about IT skills, says Thompson. Consulting will be more important, with training on total cost of ownership, how to do assessments, and how to approach the customer. The data center opportunity will also require partners to know how to have a conversation with facilities managers, for example, about energy efficiency.
"We're trying to help customers understand, and that's why assessments and the consultancy aspect are so important," she said. "What are your pain points, and which ones are the worse?"
Currently, Thompson says each IBM business unit around the world has been tasked to identify three to five local partners to join the program that either have the required skills or are willing to invest to get them. Partners not selected through this process are still welcome to apply, but Thompson says asking the business units to lead the identification process, rather than the partner organization, was a conscious decision.
"I want the team that calls on the customers to feel accountability and loyalty to those partners, and if they're leading the identification process its going to be partners they know and they trust," said Thompson.