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On paper the two channels are contrasts.

IBM’s practice of deep integration and customization for high-end products; Lenovo Group’s fast and furious pace to mass market PCs to the world.

But IBM, partners and analysts claim both methods have a place in the same family and that Ravindra “Ravi” Marwaha, who has been chosen to shepherd IBM’s channel, will marry Lenovo’s high-volume process to IBM’s high-value channel, especially in the SMB (small and midsize business) space, where volume is king.

Marwaha, president of Lenovo’s Asia-Pacific region since April 2005, replaces Donn Atkins, who retired Oct. 5. He had been vice president of worldwide sales for IBM’s Personal Systems Group from 2003 until he left for Lenovo and general manager for the Personal Computing Division’s Asia Pacific region.

For his part, Marwaha expects to increase focus on the role of resellers in IBM’s channel, an effort that is boosted as much by his Lenovo experience as his lack of experience with IBM services, according to some partners and analysts.

PointerIBM continues its push to reach SMBs. Click here to read more.

“My sense is he will be focused on the processes associated with doing a higher volume-type business,” said Andrew Gorelik, chief operating officer of Strategic Computer Solutions, in Syracuse, N.Y., an IBM partner.

“Where the Lenovo channel differs from the traditional IBM [channel] is that it is a high-volume product,” Gorelik said. “It would be wonderful to combine a great high-volume channel with great high-value channel. But that is really an extension of what Donn [Atkins] has already started. He has been creating the process within IBM to make it easier to do business with IBM. I’d be very surprised if this guy didn’t just continue on what he had started.”

Atkins kicked off the SMB push in March when he announced IBM had identified and intended to recruit 5,000 new SMB partners—1,500 in the Americas, 1,500 in Europe and 2,000 in Asia—many from Lenovo’s complementary SMB channel, to “touch a new set of customers” in the midsize space, Atkins said. And among partners selling competitive products in the SMB space, where many potential partners have simply been ignored to date, Atkins said.

ISV partners praised Atkins for reducing complexity and speeding processes, which will be key in a reseller channel, said John Carini, chief software architect at iEnterprises, in Murray Hill, N.J., a CRM vendor that leverages IBM’s SOA platform to deliver its own CRM and those of several competitors (, Siebel and Oracle among them) on wireless devices.

“They’ve streamlined and commoditized so much of the program,” Carini said. “You’re getting your funds quicker, they can get telemarketing campaigns up and running in no time, so much of it now is prepackaged—things that used to take several phone calls and didn’t [need to].”

PointerIBM tries to lure SMBs with “Express” storage. Click here to read more.

But the new channel approach is going to rely on more than just swifter processes, said Susan Huhn Eustis, president of WinterGreen Research, in Lexington, Mass., a research firm.

IBM is preparing to capitalize on a potential trend it sees as more SMBs and midsize enterprises find it more practical to abandon server farms for mainframes, where its infrastructure would lie, she said. And to do it will take a network of resellers who are not afraid to lose their services piece of the deal to Big Blue.

Marwaha’s ascendancy throws more credibility behind the effort, with a channel chief less likely to see IBM services as paramount to the deal, Eustis said.

“IBM wants to push their software, their infrastructure, and they’re not going to care as much where the services come from [in the SMB],” Eustis said.