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IBM is opening up its Vertical Industry Program to encourage VARs and ISVs to provide joint solutions based on IBM’s servers, blades and storage platforms targeted at specific vertical industries.

Previously, VIP was only applicable in pilot phase on IBM’s System i. However, in a move that reflects the vendor’s growing push into vertical markets, VARs and ISVs can now design solutions based around IBM Power Systems and coming soon, IBM BladeCenter and IBM System Storage. 

VIP aims to help IBM partners target very specific vertical solutions at the SMB (small and midsize business) market, said Mark Shearer, vice president of marketing for IBM Business Systems. “We are ramping up our end-to-end offerings and making it easier for partners to get core industry-specific applications deployed,” he said.

Shearer said the pilot phase, which ran in 15 countries, had more than exceeded IBM’s expectations by generating $500 million in the first 14 months and developing applications for 160 subindustries.  

The pilot phase has covered industries from wood furniture manufacturers in North Carolina to local banks in Europe, Shearer said. “There are ecosystems around these subindustries that IBM and our competitors haven’t penetrated yet, and if you don’t look at this deep level, you miss things,” he said.   

Under VIP, IBM helps to pair up VARs with ISVs that are developing industry-specific applications and take them to market together. Shearer said IBM has spent “many millions of dollars” on VIP since its inception in January 2007. He added that IBM will help drive demand for the industry-specific solutions by placing localized ad campaigns and doing lead generation. “Over the coming months you will see IBM becoming much more visible with this program,” he said.

Patrick Lawton, CEO of new business consultancy and VAR DU 360, welcomed the expansion of VIP and said his business is geared toward maximizing this kind of opportunity. “The days of partners being able to do everything are in the past,” he said. “The only way partners can service the complex range of opportunity in the market is through the development of partner ecosystems.”

He added that having a vertical focus will also help channel partners accelerate their specializations. “The more time you spend working in a chosen area, the more specialist you become and the more value you can add to your customers,” he said.