There They Go Again

Today AT&T and IBM announced an alliance aimed at bringing jointly developed, end-to-end e-business solutions to small and midsized customers, with channel partners acting as the conduits. Under the deal, IBM will provide the software and a choice of servers, and AT&T will manage the Internet-connectivity piece.

Today AT&T and IBM announced an alliance aimed at bringing jointly developed, end-to-end e-business solutions to small and midsized customers, with channel partners acting as the conduits.

Under the deal, IBM will provide the software and a choice of servers, and AT&T will manage the Internet-connectivity piece. The first partner to sign on to the new venture is Savoir Technology Group Inc., a San Antonio, Texas-based midrange systems distributor, which is offering its solution providers training and technical support for partnered IBM/AT&T offerings.

Jim Corgel, general manager of the Internet Service Provider Industry for IBM Global Industries, says that 24 of Savoir's approximately 500 reseller partners are already certified on the AT&T/IBM solution, making Savoir an obvious choice to kick start the U.S. marketing effort. In an interview Corgel added that IBM and AT&T are talking to other major distributors with long tentacles into the e-reseller community, although he would not identify these candidates.

The first set of solutions to be made available under the alliance incorporates IBM's Start Now solution software; an IBM Netfinity server; an AS/400 or RS/6000 server; and IBM's Business Partner customization services. AT&T connectivity services are being provided through its Managed Internet Access Service.

AT&T officials said the initial solution will enable small and midsized clients to create Web sites and develop electronic catalogues with secure e-commerce capabilities. That "out of the box" approach to simplifying implementation allows business partners to provide scalable solutions at a starting price of $35,000, plus Internet-connectivity fees, AT&T added. Customers also have the option of leasing solutions through IBM Global Financing, for a monthly fee of under $2,000. IBM and AT&T officials, however, declined to discuss margin opportunities for resellers on the new joint e-biz offering.

The IBM/AT&T pact marks the latest effort by Big Blue to leverage the partnership model to sell its hardware, software and services. Most recently, it has signed ambitious deals with Dell and Cisco in the desktop and internetworking markets.

The new pact also signals a new chapter in the increasingly close relationship between IBM and AT&T, capped by AT&T's acquisition of the IBM Global Network last year. Keith Olsen, VP of global channel management for AT&T, says familiarity with each others' capabilities was certainly a factor in this joint development and marketing partnership, as was the desire to offer smaller users the convenience of one-stop shopping in a best-of-breed package.

"All [the previous alliances] tie in," concludes Olsen. "For example, the managed Internet connectivity offered by AT&T in this first solution set includes a Cisco router managed by IBM."

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