More than 1,500 business partner executives are in New Orleans this week, attending IBM PartnerWorld. Much of the conference focuses on that familiar IBM theme: Transforming business on a smarter planet. But it's a safe bet IBM will also generate plenty of managed services news at the conference. Here's why.

Sure, topics like business analytics remain core to IBM's channel partner strategy. But over the past year, IBM's midmarket team has quietly developed an aggressive MSP partner strategy that blends on-premises managed services with off-premises cloud services.

As MSPmentor reported in December 2011, IBM sees three managed services market segments for MSPs:
  1. Managed IT services. Here, MSPs maintain and optimize customers’ on-premises equipment.
  2. Hosted IT services. Here, the services run within the MSP’s data center.
  3. Cloud services: Here, the services run in a third-party data center. In this case, IBM wants to be the data center operator.
Building on that theme, IBM at PartnerWorld will host a session called "Drive Profitable Growth with IBM SmartCloud and Managed Services." Confirmed speakers include:
  • Kristie Bell, VP, services channels, Alliances and Midmarket Services, Global Technology Services
  • Jan Jackman, VP, global cloud services, Global Technology Services; and
  • Rick Ruiz, GM, BCRS, Global Technology Services
The session will focus on annuity revenue streams involving IBM's cloud and managed services offerings. Meanwhile, MSPs should also get to know Andy Monshaw, general manager of IBM’s global and medium sized business. Monshaw is one of the key architects who has pieced together IBM's managed services strategy.

IBM's growing interest in the managed services market reinforces the fact that big IT companies are finally turning to MSPs as next-generation channel partners. Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and many other IT giants have also opened their arms to MSPs in recent months.

On the one hand, it's a safe bet IBM wants MSPs to deploy Big Blue servers, software and middleware in MSP data centers and within end-customer settings. But on the other hand, IBM will increasingly promote a new range of cloud services and SaaS applications to MSPs. Among those worth watching: IBM Docs, a potential alternative to Google Docs and Microsoft Office 365.

As more details emerge at IBM PartnerWorld, we'll be sure to share the managed services perspectives here on MSPmentor.