IBMs New Linux Strategy Pushes Solution Sets

In keeping with its On Demand model, IBM is positioning itself as a problem-solver for customers, even if that means installing other companies' products.

After six months and some 300 customer engagements, trying out a new sales and services approach that concentrates on industry-specific solution sets, IBM has decided to realign its global Linux-related sales and marketing teams around this model.

The Linux teams are now concentrating on selling and marketing 17 solution sets that address IT and customer business problems, rather than focusing on selling specific products.

The shift recognizes the growing demand from IBM customers that the company transform enterprise operations to become more responsive, "real time" and on demand, Scott Handy, the vice president for worldwide Linux at IBM in Somers, N.Y., told eWEEK.

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IBM has aligned each solution with a services-led delivery capability, with specific business insight and solution customization by industry. This solution-delivery capability supports all operating system platforms relevant to IBMs customers, not just Linux, and is an extension of IBMs On Demand strategy, which is now tied more closely to Linux, he said.

Handy said the solutions are also really rallying or starter points for the various engagements, and while these industry-based solution sets represent the top issues those customers are dealing with, if there is a solution or technology they have that is not part of the set, IBM installs it.

"We prefer our stuff but well install anybodys stuff and, so, if we have to install someone elses product, well do that," Handy said.

"The 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," he added.

But some competitors are not so kind. Martin Fink, the vice president and general manager of Hewlett-Packard Co.s NonStop Enterprise Division of its Open Source and Linux Organization, said IBMs change in strategy indicated they were being called to the carpet by customers to make their execution match the message.

"There is nothing new, different or challenging there, as it doesnt change the holistic nature of IBMs go-to-market model. 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.

Steve Mills, IBMs senior vice president for software, said the company firmly believes in the co-existence of open-source and proprietary software across its solution stacks and offerings.

"That is very evident across a whole range of things we at IBM are doing that combine open-source and proprietary software. They are not contradictory, and help provide incremental customer choice. For businesses, the leveraging of value comes about through integration, and they want the certainty of openness, the freedom of choice and to take advantage of lower cost," Mills said at the recent LinuxWorld conference in San Francisco.

Thriving communities are also building up around these technologies and customers have the ability to leverage that, he said.

"These things can be made to fit together, combining fee and free into offerings that customers can leverage. It also widens the ecosystem, facilitates more packaged offerings and encourages the industry to grow at an even faster pace," Mills said.

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