By Ken Presti, Senior Consultant, Channel Impact
Apple and IBM Forge Enterprise Mobility Alliance
Two companies that once had been famous competitors have announced an alliance aimed at gaining the upper hand against other famous competitors in the mobility space.
In a surprise to many, IBM and Apple have announced a new partnership to jointly develop more than 100 industry-specific enterprise solutions that can bring IBM’s device management, security, big data, cloud and analytics capabilities to any Apple device, including the iPhone and the iPad.
Targeted verticals include retail, healthcare, banking, travel and transportation, telecommunications and insurance, and others. The first product roll-outs are expected as early as this fall. All services will be available on Bluemix, IBM’s development platform on the IBM Cloud Marketplace.
As part of the exclusive IBM MobileFirst for iOS agreement, IBM will also sell iPhones and iPads with the industry-specific solutions to business clients worldwide. Apple, meanwhile, intends to adjust its AppleCare service and support offerings in order to meet the needs of the alliance portfolio.
The new IBM MobileFirst for iOS solutions are widely viewed as a shot across the bow of both Microsoft and Google, two companies that are also striving to stake a leadership position in the area of enterprise mobility.
As of this time, the two companies have said very little about what role, if any, the channel will have in the overall go-to-market strategy. While cloud computing and mobility are often seen as inhibitors to channel value, the integration with network resources often requires hands-on efforts that vendors typically cannot provide at the proper scale. In addition, the cloud aggregator portion of the channel can have a lot to say about potential customer adoption moving forward.
From the partner perspective, this move dramatically underscores the fact that today’s business environment is no not limited to a single platform, and alliances like this one can boost the partners’ overall value.
SAP Launches SMB Business Unit
Seeking to extend its footprint in the small-to-medium business space, SAP announced the establishment of its new SMB Solutions Group, which will target customers with 500 or fewer employees.
The new division will be headed up by Dean Mansfield, who has been tasked with developing and marketing simplified, integrated business applications based on the company’s HANA cloud framework. Mansfield also manages the highly channel-focused SAP Business One application portfolio.
“SMBs are playing an increasingly important role in the global economy and at the same time are increasingly interested in leveraging advanced technology,” said Ray Boggs, vice president of SMB Research, IDC in a prepared statement. “We’re predicting record worldwide SMB IT spending that will top $680 billion by 2018, with exceptional gains in key regions and across key technologies as SMBs are being transformed through the use of mobile devices and cloud computing. The opportunity for firms to sharpen their products, refine distribution strategy and appeal to new customers has never been greater.”
While SAP already has an existing SMB position, this move indicates that the company will have a strong role for the channel, despite that emphasis on a cloud-based strategy. Look for partners to leverage this business unit, not only for an enhanced position with SAP, but also for increased cloud opportunities and, arguably, a position for penetration into the lower ends of the enterprise.
Extreme Networks Expands Service & Support
Extreme Networks has unveiled a new service option through which channel partners can re-sell vendor services being marketed under the “ExtremeWorks” brand. A co-delivery mechanism is also being made available.
The program leverages the Extreme Networks Global Technical Assistance Center (GTAC) comprised of 100 percent in-house support people tasked with providing high-touch access for customers. According to the vendor, GTAC employees boast an average tenure of 10 years and a first-person resolution rate of 94 percent.
Additionally, the Company has expanded geographical support by doubling the number of global contact centers and opening two new service logistics depots as part of an effort to reduce average response times.
Boosting customer value is always an advantage, but channel partners need to be highly aware of the services play in order to avoid over-reliance on hardware margins, which have declined substantially through the years. Leveraging opportunities such as this one can be useful, particularly in co-delivery environments, or in circumstances where the partner is entering a new space and is still developing its own service capabilities.