IBM Think 2021 Highlights Its Traction with Partners to Develop Hybrid Cloud and Automation Capabilities

S. Soh

Summary Bullets:

  • Partners are warming up to IBM as it invests heavily in growing the partner ecosystem and leveling the playing field for managed services, and Kyndryl will soon become a separate business.
  • Service providers are building more strategic alliances with IBM, and one of the potential areas for collaboration is automation including AIOps.

At the recent IBM Think 2021 event, the company highlighted progress it has made in helping partners succeed. After announcing the spinoff of its managed infrastructure business in 2020, IBM has stepped up its efforts to drive partner success, including an investment of USD 1 billion in its partner ecosystem (please see “IBM Pivots Toward Partner Ecosystem for Its Go-to-Market Strategy,” February 26, 2021).  In April 2021, IBM announced its independent managed infrastructure services business would be named ‘Kyndryl.’  ‘Kyn’ has its origin in the word ‘kinship,’ referencing the belief that relationships with people – employees, customers, and partners – are at the center of the strategy. ‘Dryl’ is meant to suggest the word ‘tendril,’ which IBM says brings “to mind new growth.” With the separation of Kyndryl from IBM expected by the end of 2021, it will level the playing field for IBM’s partners to compete for managed services.

While the Kyndryl spinoff is still underway, IBM has already made significant commitment to grow its partner ecosystem. The company has made good progress with 4,000 partners signed up to its Partner Packages, which contain resources to help partners learn, develop, test, and create proofs of concept.  Thirty percent (30%) of its Cloud Engagement Fund (CEF) has already been consumed.  This is an investment in significant technical resources and cloud credits for partners to help migrate customer workloads to hybrid cloud environments.  For example, Siemens Digital Industries Software leverages the CEF to scale its MindSphere industrial IoT solution.  Through IBM’s open hybrid cloud built on Red Hat OpenShift, Siemens extended the deployment of MindSphere as a service, in addition to the on-premises option.  At Think 2021, IBM announced the expansion of the CEF to all partner types, which will motivate more partners to leverage IBM’s resources and technology to develop hybrid cloud solutions.  Besides the CEF, IBM announced new benefits to help partners succeed, including the creation of a new competency framework to enable partners to demonstrate expertise, technical validation, and sales success in specialized areas such as hybrid cloud infrastructure, automation, and security.  Moreover, the company has opened up its Client Centers to help partners co-create and showcase their solutions.

Major IT firms are also developing more strategic relationships with IBM. At Think 2021, EY and IBM announced the creation of a Center of Excellence (CoE) that offers new open hybrid cloud solutions built with Red Hat OpenShift for the IBM Cloud for Financial Services.  The CoE is a centralized virtual hub with offerings in areas like regulatory compliance, digital trust, and security.  Another example is Larsen & Toubro Infotech (LTI), a global technology consulting and digital solutions company.  LTI leveraged IBM’s Build team and IBM Garage methodology to develop ‘Risk Insights’ services such as social scoring for insurance companies.  The solution uses data from a variety of sources: local crime statistics, weather events, peril, and other data sources to introduce a new dimension to the underwriting process.  IBM and HCL Technologies also recently announced a collaboration to modernize HCL’s CyberSecurity Fusion Centers (security operation centers) leveraging IBM’s Cloud Pak for Security for unified threat management.

There are different areas where service providers can leverage IBM’s technology to enhance their offerings, and one of them is automation. IBM introduced Watson Orchestrate at Think 2021, aiming to help enterprises automate workflows and increase productivity.  This solution is part the IBM Automation Cloud Paks, and it uses AI to automate tasks for sales, HR, or operational functions.  Watson Orchestrate is compatible with Slack, Salesforce, SAP, and Workday.  As enterprises progress with their digital transformation, automation of work processes leveraging AI and data across the organization will become more important.  IBM Cloud Paks for Automation has also gained interest from its partner community, with support from more than 30 companies including HCL, Infosys, LTI, TCS, Tech Mahindra, and Wipro.

In the multi-cloud world, it is crucial for service providers to build strategic alliances with a variety of technology providers so that they can adequately address the needs and preferences of enterprise customers. With IBM, service providers can consider areas such as security, AIOps, hybrid cloud, and edge.  As for Kyndryl, it will become even more critical to establish strategic partnerships outside of IBM so that it can compete more effectively against other major system integrators.

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