IBM's $1bn investment in partner ecosystem to accelerate digital transformation of businesses

29th July 2021 By: Schalk Burger - Creamer Media Senior Contributing Editor

Information technology (IT) multinational IBM has started a new technology unit that encompasses all its brands and technology community, placing its business partners at the forefront of the goal to provide client organisations with access to integrated technology teams to solve their challenges and advance their digital transformation, says IBM Southern Africa technology executive Craig Holmes.

As announced by IBM CEO Arvind Krishna in January, the company will invest $1-billion in its partnership ecosystem, which is central to its growth strategy, to help partners and their customers capture the estimated $1-trillion hybrid cloud market opportunity. Its corporate strategy is focused on two major forces driving change for business, namely open hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence (AI).

The business partners ecosystem is vital to achieve the objective of enabling more companies and organisations to adopt open hybrid cloud and AI, and digitally transform their businesses. IBM aims to build a shared vision of success for business partners with its open hybrid cloud and AI strategy across the Southern African region, and globally, says Holmes.

"The reason we are working with our partners is because they can deliver value to organisations by providing services or solutions. As they develop their own IT and build on the IBM platform, they bring greater value to clients.

"We are looking for partners to deliver business value by developing solutions, expertise and service capabilities, particularly for cloud services. This is where we are focused and using the $1-billion fund to support partners in industry verticals," says IBM Middle East and Africa Partner Ecosystem VP Andy Parkinson.

The company continues to invest in financial incentives, maintaining the current offerings and adding new incentives for partners engaging in the build and service tracks, including a service engagement incentive and a proof-of-concept incentive.

IBM has moved 300 specialists in technical partner architect roles that are available in every market. These architects are specialised in different elements of the portfolio, including analytics, security, automation, power systems and storage, among others.

Further, IBM’s Hybrid Cloud Build Team is also available to help partners accelerate their modernisation efforts by infusing AI into their workflows. There are currently over 100 active engagements across the world today with different partners.

The acquisition of enterprise open source software multinational Red Hat in 2019 and the integration of its capabilities into the IBM portfolio enables IBM to provide clients with opportunities to use cloud resources on their own terms by allowing them to run their processes on any infrastructure, including public cloud, within their own data centres or within a private cloud.

The Red Hat OpenShift layer serves as an abstraction layer that allows users to develop hybrid clouds by running cloud workloads on any cloud infrastructure, including hyperscaler companies such as Microsoft and Amazon Web Services, without being locked into these cloud platforms, says new IBM partner and long-term Red Hat partner local open source technology company Obsidian Systems MD Muggie van Staden.

"OpenShift gives customers the choice of where and how to deploy their cloud workloads and this enables digital transformation. We are excited to help our clients along this journey. It allows a true hybrid model, where clients can deploy across multiple clouds."

This interoperability layer provides the user with choice and benefits both parties, as more cloud services are likely to be used according to the customer's needs, he says.

"New programs, funding and a simplified approach empower our partners to deliver innovation for customers. This will also drive IBM’s hybrid cloud and AI strategy as customers modernise, migrate cloud workloads and infuse AI into their businesses,” says Holmes.

The company is investing in developing market-leading skills, expertise and support by ensuring that partners are trained, highly skilled and successful, which is part of its drive around competencies and skills for the partnership platform.

The IBM Competency Framework offers a unified design across build and service tracks allowing partners to benefit from a guided skills development. IBM is adding ten competencies to its competency portfolio and launching new benefits for partners, for skills aligned to competencies and for job roles. It is also adding technology to bring IBM training into partners’ own learning management systems.

"We believe the use of Red Hat OpenShift provides our partners with an open hybrid cloud independent platform that can drive flexibility, speed and agility for users to operate on any infrastructure environment, whether on-premise, private or public cloud.

"In line with this, the partnership ecosystem, which had typically been reseller organisations, has two new tracks, which are the build track in which partners can integrate IBM technology into their solutions, and the recently launched cloud satellite public cloud offerings, which allow partners to build service capabilities to leverage public cloud infrastructure," says Holmes.

"Our mantra has been to take our industry expertise and innovate together with business partners and clients. We continue to expand our industry cloud offerings, with two specialised industry clouds available to date, which are the financial services and telecommunications clouds."

These were started by looking at the specific industry problems, such as risk and compliance in the financial services industry and allowing the telecommunications industry to build and manage applications at the edge of the network.

Agriculture digital technologies startup Omniolytics has developed a poultry monitoring solution that uses sensors and IBM's AI engine Watson running in the IBM Cloud to collect data on the environmental conditions of production facilities and improve animal husbandry.

"We are working with Omniolytics on their mesh network and providing them with the AI processing engine to do the analytics on farming activity and, specifically, their poultry monitoring application. We believe these cloud technologies are applicable in other sectors, such as manufacturing and agriculture," says Holmes.