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Strategic Changes at AWS Create Better Alignment, Says IBM

A shift in its go to market and adopting a hybrid cloud narrative mean the two tech giants are more in sync, says IBM.

Christine Horton

November 30, 2023

4 Min Read

AWS RE:INVENT — IBM says it is now more aligned with AWS than ever, following changes at the world’s largest hyperscaler.

Mahmoud Elmashni, managing partner, strategic partnerships, IBM Consulting, says that both firms now have a similar go-to-market approach.

IBM's Mahmoud Elmashni

“We still go to market by industry,” he said. “AWS now has realigned themselves by industry to match to a lot of their partners. So that’s really exciting for us. It makes it easy.”

Nick Otto, head of strategic partnerships at IBM, agreed that AWS realigning its focus around industry was important.

“We go to market by industry, and now you’ve got your fastest growing partner also doing the same thing. It’ll make life so much easier in terms of bridging those gaps.”

Another area of alignment between the two tech giants is AWS’ shift to more of a "hybrid cloud" narrative rather than its previous cloud-only stance.

“A lot of that is just around the reality of how the markets evolve,” explained Otto.

“Four years ago, that would have been an absolute no-no. ‘Put everything on there. Don’t worry about the whole thing, the ecosystem will handle it!’ Now they recognize, ‘That’s not where most of my clients are going to go.’ It’s not very feasible.”

Otto also pointed out that IBM itself has restructured to focus only on hybrid cloud and AI.

“Spin off our infrastructure, support business, sell off a lot, so we’ve just doubled down on the consulting side,” he said.

He added that IBM will continue to make investments and acquisitions “to help boost our skill sets globally. To be able to address that, especially with capabilities across our partners, including AWS.”

Common Beliefs Around Hybrid Cloud

The IBM execs were at AWS re:Invent this week, where the company announced the availability of Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) for Db2. A managed cloud offering, it aims to make it easier for database customers to manage data for artificial intelligence (AI) workloads across hybrid cloud environments.

However, IBM’s relationship with AWS began in 2021 is when it launched ROSA (Red Hat OpenShift on AWS).

IBM's Nick Otto

“It really was an alignment opportunity to show that we have common beliefs around hybrid cloud,” said Otto. “The fact that clients are going to want to run workloads, different places, different clouds. AWS been a huge advocate of that, helped us really accelerate the partnership and … helped us drive a ton of growth from a consulting perspective.”

The next phase came last year with a strategic collaboration to bring more IBM software onto the AWS Marketplace. IBM has now listed 70 offerings in the last 12 months on the marketplace.

“A  lot of those are SaaS, making it easier for clients to consume our products and ways that they want to consume it,” said Otto.

Partners Welcome Changes to IBM’s Partner Plus program

Otto also provided an update on IBM’s partner program, which has undergone a significant overhaul this year. IBM revamped its partner program at the beginning of 2023, replacing IBM PartnerWorld with the new IBM Partner Plus program.

“We basically took hundreds of old programs, systems, approaches, incentives [and] collapsed them all into one singular program,” said Otto.

The main reason behind the change was to make the make the program simpler.

“We had been driving more and more complexity into the system over the previous few years. It was all around creating custom programs for very specific situations,” said Otto. “We wanted to completely streamline [it], make education easier make certifications easier, and bring it all under a singular umbrella to make it easier for our clients and partners to move faster.”

Otto says the revamp has been seen as “incredibly successful” by partners.

“All of our partners have been very positive on the changes. It used to be a weeklong process to become a partner. Now it’s within an hour that you go through the process of onboarding, with automation [and] a lot of new tooling. We’ve incorporated Salesforce into the whole plan. It’s been a pretty substantial transformation.”

As part of the overhaul, IBM’s strategic partners – its seven largest partnerships – were renamed Blue partners. They include AWS on the cloud side.

“We obviously deploy a lot of their technology from a consulting perspective,” said Otto. “But it was a pretty massive transformation. Because Blue partners always sat to the side of the rest of the ecosystem. They’re so large. I was really excited to see the convergence when we launched Partner Plus where we’d have a singular view of the entire ecosystem.”

About the Author(s)

Christine Horton

Contributing Editor, Channel Futures

Christine Horton writes about all kinds of technology from a business perspective. Specializing in the IT sales channel, she is a former editor and now regular contributor to leading channel and business publications. She has a particular focus on EMEA for Channel Futures.

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