Continuing its solutions-selling push, IBM has some new hardware and software solutions geared for mid market customers.
For example, a new "Comprehensive Data Protection Solution" bundles Tivoli Storage Manager FastBack, DS 3000/DS4000 or Express/DS5000 series disk systems and a System x3550 server with IBM services and financing for companies with 100 to 999 employees. The suite is available only through IBM's business partners.
IBM midmarket VARs can add their own special customizations and integrate the product into customers' existing infrastructure, but the barebones bundle starts at around $25,000, said Ed Abrams, vice president of marketing for IBM's General Business. With IBM financing, customers can pay it off at $650 a month.
IBM is trying to give its partners more points of entry into existing and new accounts.
Unlike some of IBM's other "Express" solutions, which are typically downsized versions of enterprise-level products, these new products were built from scratch with midmarket customers in mind, Abrams said. "This is not a downsized version of anything,"
In this economy, VARs "can't just talk the usual speeds and feeds. End user customers don't really care about that anymore. They want to keep cash on hand," Abrams said. IBM's hope is to let them do that and to leverage the company's huge credit organization to make purchases more palatable.
In addition, IBM can help smaller VARs talk more effectively with CFO and other C-level executives at a time when more IT purchases require sign-off at that level.
Indeed, many vendors say that even small technology purchases now require another level of authorization where, in the past, they could be approved at the department or line-of-business level.
"We recognize that in the market today, every purchase from a major update to buying more storage has to go though a CFO," Abrams said.
Some partners say IBM is moving from point product pushes into solutions -- something most tech companies are trying to do.
"IBM is doing a better job at [providing] solutions and bundles. It makes it easier for us to talk to customers when we can address a specific pain point and sell a solution versus a product," said Anthony Bongiovanni, president of Micro Strategies Inc., a Denville, N.J., IBM partner.
IBM, like Oracle Corp. and other tech vendors that made their name primarily in big enterprise accounts, has set its sights on smaller companies for the past few years. It's not clear, however, how successful its forays have been in penetrating net new accounts. Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and other tech vendors have greater presence in smaller accounts, which they are fighting to retain and expand.