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IBM is quietly working to build its MSP channel by creating programs to help traditional VARs add or migrate to the emerging business model and also by recruiting MSPs to its traditional channel program.

The quiet moves come amid a time when IBM and other big vendors are talking in broad terms about the cloud and customer moves there. But IBM has said little about MSPs, as noted by MSPMentor. That’s probably going to change in the months ahead.

IBM’s Ed Abrams, vice president for marketing, IBM General Business, told Channel Insider that currently, MSP and SAAS channel partners fall under IBM’s traditional tiered channel partner program, and since the compensation tends to be different, these service provider partners are classified according to their capabilities.

But IBM is working to create something a little more formal — certifications that will be tailored to MSPs. In addition, the company is working to help traditional VARs find managed services and/or SAAS partners who can provide some of the additional services that midmarket customers want.

IBM’s move towards a closer relationship with MSPs comes from its midmarket push. A recent IBM survey of midmarket executives showed that more were looking for a consultative relationship with their IT service providers rather than a transactional one.

Plus, 66 percent said they were looking to implement cloud computing and 65 percent said they were looking to implement software as a service in order to take advantage of a shared infrastructure to improve efficiencies, lower costs and improve scalability.

"There are opportunities for partners in the applications services and applications management areas," said Abrams. "We have recruited MSPs and we are continuing to do so."

But this is still an area under construction at IBM as Big Blue itself creates the infrastructure to support this new kind of business partners.

"Part of what we are doing is putting together the right education and tools," Abrams said. "We want partners to be able to build a network so they can find other partners to deliver what they can’t."