IBM Applies Vertical Approach to Linux Effort

IBM is realigning its global Linux-related sales and marketing teams around a new model that concentrates on industry-specific solution sets.

After a six-month tryout that included some 300 customer engagements, IBM is realigning its global Linux-related sales and marketing teams around a new model that concentrates on industry-specific solution sets rather than on just products.

The Linux teams are focusing on selling 17 industry-specific solution sets that address IT and customer business problems rather than focusing on selling specific products.

The shift is designed to address the growing demand from IBM customers to transform enterprise IT operations into more responsive organizations, said Scott Handy, vice president for worldwide Linux at IBM, in Somers, N.Y.

Jean Bozman, an analyst with IDC, in San Mateo, Calif., said the IBM move is significant in that it shows the customer is clearly in the drivers seat and increasingly wants certain open-source components as part of the solution stack.

"While IBMs own proprietary products still remain a very important component of those solution stacks, it is now clearly showing its willingness to include other technologies if these help address customer problems. I dont see this as being disruptive to them selling their own middleware and hardware. In fact, it might be beneficial by growing the customer base," Bozman said.

IBMs Handy agreed.

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"Thats a valid point. When we shifted to an open- standards base strategy, that allowed others to have compatible products to those standards, which is why customers like them. We do have to recognize these other implementations of standards," Handy said.

IBMs solution delivery capability supports all operating system platforms relevant to its customers, not just Linux, and is an extension of its on-demand strategy, which is now tied more closely to Linux, he said.

These solutions are also really starting points rather than being set in stone and, Handy said, if a solution or technology a customer wanted was not part of that, "we install it. We prefer our stuff, but well install anybodys stuff and, so, if we have to install someone elses product, well do that. Our services arms are trying to be agnostic, and, a lot of the time, the customer has no preference. In those cases, they will tend to favor our solution. But they are trained to be neutral, and if the customer has an Opinion or already [has] skills that can be used, we accommodate those," Handy said.

But some competitors are not buying it. Martin Fink, vice president and general manager of Hewlett-Packard Co.s NonStop Enterprise Division and Open Source and Linux Organization, said, "From my perspective, its an admission of guilt on their part that they had not mainstreamed Linux within the company, and now their customers are making them do that," Fink said.

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