IBM LogoUPDATE: IBM's MSP Influencer Forum, set for Oct. 30 in New York, was canceled amid Hurricane Sandy's approach. But how is IBM's (NYSE: IBM) view of the MSP industry evolving, and what does that mean for how Big Blue plans to work with established MSPs and aspiring market players? Here are five questions worth asking.

5. Three Segments: IBM has previously stated that it sees three opportunities for MSPs...
  • Managed IT services. Here, MSPs maintain and optimize customers’ on-premises equipment.
  • Hosted IT services. Here, the services run within the MSP’s data center.
  • Cloud services: Here, the services run in a third-party data center. In this case, IBM wants to be the data center operator.
Has IBM's view of the market evolved? If so, how?

4. Big Numbers: IBM claims to be working with 1,200 mid-market MSPs as of Aug. 2012. But not all MSPs look the same. I'm curious to learn where those MSPs came from. Are they pure-play MSPs? Evolving telcos? VARs stepping into managed services? We'll be checking.

3. The Experts: I'm set to moderate a panel featuring:
  • Tom Bruno, CEO, Velocity Technology Solutions
  • Jason Bystrak, Director, Sales, Ingram Micro Services
  • Karthik Balachandran, Senior Strategist, Vision Solutions
  • Mike McClurg, VP, IBM Global Midmarket, Sales
My core goal for the panel: Help attendees understand how MSPs consume IT hardware, software and services, and what that means for how companies like IBM, Ingram Micro and others must support MSPs.

2. IBM Hardware: Let's assume mid-market customers buy fewer servers and begin to shift some (though not all) applications to the cloud. What does that mean for how IBM intends to build, brand, sell and support servers, storage and networking? Shouldn't IBM hardware be making a huge push toward service providers as customers? And is such a push already underway?

1. IBM Software: Similar to point two above, how is IBM adjusting the way it develops, packages, markets, sells and supports software? I'm not predicting the end of on-premises applications. But how aggressive will IBM market its own cloud apps to MSPs?

Side note: The remnants of Hurricane Sandy may hit New York on Oct. 30 -- the date and location of IBM's event. For safety's sake IBM canceled the event and MSPmentor will update this blog post if/when IBM reschedules.