We had the opportunity to attend the yearly IBM Alliance Insights event, held August 23rd and 24th in New York. The analyst event was well attended with the usual colleagues covering services players, coming all the way from Europe. The focus was on three major partnerships of IBM, respectively with SAP, Oracle and Microsoft.

So take a look at my musings on the event below: (if the video doesn’t show up, check here)


No time to watch – here is the one slide condensation (if the slide doesn’t show up, check here):


Want to read on? Here you go: Always tough to pick the takeaways – but here are my Top 3:

Deep Plans - IBM has substantial business with all three partners, so not surprisingly the plans with each are elaborate, carefully crafted and validated multiple times. The common leitmotiv for all three of them is that IBM is trying to push its two strong assets with Watson and IBM Cloud in all partnerships, while maintaining and expanding its substantial professional services business with all three vendors. The relationship is different with all three partners so let’s take a look:
  • SAP - IBM goes the longest back across all three partners, and has a very strong professional services business. SAP was also the first ISV with which IBM partnered to position the IBM Cloud (read here), which has put IBM in a very strong position across the existing (and future) SAP IaaS partners. Similarly IBM and SAP are using Watson in talent acquisition scenarios as well as other scenarios. Both vendors are committed to the partnership (see more here).
  • Oracle - The 2nd largest of the three partnerships, where IBM has a unique portfolio, not only offering services for Oracle’s current cloud products and its older e-Business Suite product family, but also for the acquired products Peoplesoft, JDE Edwards and Siebel. IBM has seen the high cloud priority for Oracle and has substantially invested into training, education and certification of the IBM professional resources, and this investment is starting to pay off in 2016. Positioning of Watson and IBM Cloud are a little trickier than with SAP, with Watson client lead and demanded offerings being on the way. With the older Oracle offerings like e.g. Siebel, JDE and Peoplesoft the cloud overlap does not exist and IBM Cloud is a key asset for the IBM teams.

  • Microsoft - The youngest of all three partnership, that only recently has been promoted from a regional level (in Europe) to a global level. The overall product portfolio overlap between IBM and Microsoft is the biggest, giving less room for synergies. IBM and Microsoft started around CRM and Dynamics and both areas are doing well. IBM is copying working best practices and offerings of the IBM and Apple partnership to a Surface partnership with IBM which is off to a promising start, with IBM providing both service and financing products for Surface customers. In this partnership IBM is likely to require to invest more in common offerings around net new businesses, e.g. for the Microsoft Hololens and whatever Microsoft plans to productize on the LinkedIn side. 

Watson and Cloud are the pillars - We have written earlier and multiple times that both Cloud (via the SoftLayer acquisition) and Watson are the strong cards for IBM’s overall product portfolio (see e.g. here). It makes sense for IBM to use them in the above alliances, and it is good to see both product are well on the way to support partnerships. The Watson pivot to the expose APIs via BlueMix is successful and uniquely supportive of partner engagements both on a product and professional services side. And the relative low commercial entry point of IBM Cloud to establish data centers is a key attraction for joint customers as well as ISVs (see e.g. with Workday most recently here). But the competition does not sleep, SAP seems to apply past best practices to databases now to partnering on IaaS and Microsoft has its own Machine Learning ambitions.

Vertical and IP ambitions - Beyond the more horizontal capabilities of Watson and IBM Cloud, IBM clearly sees vertical offerings as a major opportunity across all three partnerships. This is a perennially valid perspective, as all product vendors in the league of the three partners think horizontal and then vertical – leaving room open for partners to fill the gap. Its back to IBM now to address with the often seen consulting offerings or taking this effort a step further and creating true products (with a version number, a roadmap, support and maintenance) for them. Definitively a different DNA required for this, but IBM has this DNA in house in the product divisions. Will be interesting to watch.

Finally IBM also has a data / data services maybe even DaaS play with these partners, as it is looking at offering both analytical insights as well as data services with the Weather Company, data access to the Twitter firehose and many more. But these are offerings that IBM needs to provide regardless of these three partners. It will be interesting to observe, if IBM will partner with these three for data exchange, benchmarking (e.g. with SAP for the Sybase 365 data, that recently SAP started to sell via SAP Digital (see here), Oracle’s elaborate DaaS offerings (see here) and Microsoft with Linkedin (see here).

Overall MyPOV

These are very large and strategic partnerships for IBM. Roughly every 6th IBMer is creating value in the ecosystem of these partners. That is larger than many service providers are stand alone. So no surprise IBM is planning, coordinating and crafting strategies with a lot of thought, substance and depth. No surprise.

On the concern side, IBM now needs to execute on these plans, without falling back to traditional ‘professional services’ roots and deliver the more IP based, productized offerings. IBM has the DNA, resources and people to do that, but they need to come together at the right time. The Rubicon that the services business has to cross is not to only leverage existing product commitments from a services perspective, but to create lasting IP or even product offerings that create a flywheel effect between its services and these new products.

For enterprises looking at IBM as a partners this is overall good news, as less time and labor based, not start from scratch projects, but fast to value approaches are what enterprises need in an ever faster evolving world. Like with all service providers we recommend enterprises to look for product naming, version numbers, roadmaps and dedicated support and maintenance strategies – across a growing customer base for these offerings.

Overall it is good to see the progress IBM has already made on some of the partnerships (e.g. with SAP where the renewed partnership was just launched in spring of this year). It won’t get boring in the near future, we will be watching, stay tuned.


More on IBM:
  • News Analysis - Workday, IBM Form Strategic Partnership on the IBM Cloud - The IaaS vendor race for SaaS load is on - read here
  • News Analysis - IBM Boosts Support to OpenStack's RefStack... first serious attempt to make OpenStack interoperability real - read here
  • Event Report - IBM Interconnect - IBM innovates and partners into the hybrid cloud era - read here
  • News Analysis - IBM and VMware announce partnership to accelerate enterprise hybrid cloud adoption >> Looking promising - read here
  • Event Preview - IBM Interconnect 2016 - read here
  • Site Visit - IBM Design Studio Austin - read here
  • MarketMoves - IBM strikes 3x in Fall - Cleversafe, The Weather Company and Gravitant - read here
  • News Analysis - IBM launches Industry's First Consulting Practice Dedicated to Cognitive Business - a good move it's early times - read more
  • News Analysis - IBM plans to acquire Cleversafe to propel Object Storage into the Hybrid Cloud >> a good move. Read here
    Market Move - IBM acquires StrongLoop - nodejs comes to BlueMix - read here
  • News Analysis - IBM and ARM Collaborate to Accelerate Delivery of Internet of Things - The IBM NextGenApps Stack emerges - read here
  • Progress Report - IBM Cloud makes good progress - but needs to attract more load - read here
  • Market Move - IBM gets into private cloud (services) with Blue Box acqusition - read here
  • Event Report - IBM InterConnect - IBM makes bets for the hybrid cloud - read here
  • First Take - IBM InterConnect Day #1 Keynote - BlueMix, SoftLayer and Watson - read here
  • News Analysis - IBM had a very good year in the cloud - 2015 will be key - read here
  • Event Report - IBM Insight 2014 - Is it all coming together for IBM in 2015? Or not? 
  • First Take - Top 3 Takeaways from IBM Insight Day 1 Keynote - read here
  • IBM and SAP partner for cloud - good move - read here
  • Event Report - IBM Enterprise - A lot of value for existing customers, but can IBM attract net new customers? Read here
  • Progress Report - The Mainframe is alive and kicking - but there is more in IBM STG - read here
  • News Analysis - IBM and Intel partner to make the cloud more secure - read here
  • Progress Report - IBM BigData an Analytics have a lot of potential - time to show it - read here
  • Event Report - What a difference a year makes - and off to a good start - read here
  • First Take - 3 Key Takeaways from IBM's Impact Conference - Day 1 Keynote - read here
  • Another week and another Billion - this week it's a BlueMix Paas - read here
  • First take - IBM makes Connection - introduces the TalentSuite at IBM Connect - read here
  • IBM kicks of cloud data center race in 2014 - read here
  • First Take - IBM Software Group's Analyst Insights - read here
  • Are we witnessing one of the largest cloud moves - so far? Read here
  • Why IBM acquired Softlayer - read here
Find more coverage on the Constellation Research website here and checkout my magazine on Flipboard and my YouTube channel here