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LAS VEGAS—IBM
has been chasing after disaffected Sun channel partners for several years, but
it wasn’t until Oracle agreed to buy the beleaguered company last April and the
European Union held up the pending deal for nine months that Big Blue cranked
up the pressure.

This week’s IBM Pulse 2010 conference is
primarily targeted at Tivoli
partners, but Sandy Carter, vice president of IBM
Software Group Business Partners, says it’s also of interest to Sun partners,
"especially with all the comments [Oracle CEO]
Larry Ellison made about going direct. I’m getting a lot of contacts from Sun
partners."

IBM was one of the companies supposedly in
the race to acquire Sun, but when the dust settled, it was software powerhouse
Oracle that shelled out $7.4 billion for Sun. In his parting blog to staff, Sun
CEO Jonathan Schwartz used the first letter
in the first seven paragraphs to tell them to "B-E-A-T-I-B-M." Not to
be outdone, Oracle’s Ellison greeted his new channel by saying they would take
the top 4,000 Sun accounts direct.

The last nine months have been exceptionally difficult for Sun and its channel,
especially for its main business, servers. While server shipments dropped 17.1
percent in the third quarter, and revenues fell 15.5 percent, only Sun failed
to register sequential growth among the top five vendors. Gartner puts its
revenue decline at more than double its closest competitor, falling 32.3
percent compared with HP’s 15.1 percent decline, while IBM
only dropped 12.3 percent.

On the other hand, IBM held on to its top
spot in the server market, barely, with 31.7 percent revenue share, fueled by
growth in the x86 and Unix segments. In Sun’s home turf, IBM
added 4.5 percent Unix market share, according to Gartner, recording its fifth
consecutive quarter as the dominant vendor, with 40.9 percent of the revenue.

"What we’ve been hearing now for months is their [Sun’s channel partners’]
frustration." Carter says they are very worried because of the direction Oracle is going and the way it treats its partners.

By last September IBM had contacted 200 Sun
resellers and ISVs, reaching out to more than 100 of Sun’s largest resellers,
and more than 90 percent of them are "seeking a closer relationship"
with IBM. One-third of those had no previous
relationship with IBM. Carter adds that 70
percent of Sun’s 100 largest ISVs are now either porting their software to IBM
platforms or developing marketing plans to do so.

IBM has a lot to offer Sun—and Oracle—partners
and customers, says Carter. In addition to the 40 global solution centers,
there is a variety of selling and training classes available, as well as the
just launched Software
Value Plus Program
, which features midmarket sales leads valued below
$50,000; new cloud computing certification; and direct access to more than 130
industry training sessions online and in local markets globally.

Plus there’s a lot more to come, and soon, says Carter.