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Changing your IBM Business Partner

Are you satisfied with your current IBM Business Partner? Explore some common myths about IBM partners and learn how to choose the right one for your business.

Written by   Steve Pitcher | February 15, 2024
An image of two engineers shaking hands in a data center

I can’t count how often I’ve heard someone say, “I wish I could use Service Express as our IBM Business Partner, but…” 

Many customers think they’re forever tied to their IBM Business Partner, bound by an unwritten contract, so they can’t work with anyone else. 

This is false. 

While there are rules that IBM Business Partners must adhere to, for the most part, if someone wants to work with a new partner, nothing’s stopping them. Most new customers come to us the old-fashioned way: word of mouth. One customer works with us and tells people in their local IBM i community. And then one good turn deserves another. 

Other times, partners go out of business or stop doing what they should: representing IBM to their customer base. I worked with a customer in 2019 who hadn’t heard from their partner in seven years since they installed their Power7. 

Who did they call when they needed help? Service Express. 

Simply because they knew we’re responsive and ready to help. We earned their business by dragging their system off the fire one night when their old IBM Business Partner didn’t pick up the phone. I don’t even think we charged them for the hour. All’s fair in love and war, I suppose. 

Your IBM Business Partner can be located anywhere

Perhaps it’s out of habit, location or a combination of both. A company has used an IBM Business Partner for ~25 years and thinks they’re the only one in town. While that may be true to some extent, what’s even more true is that you don’t need a local partner anymore. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that people can and do work from everywhere. That’s why we help customers with services worldwide. 

While we can only provide IBM hardware in North America and Europe, we’ll gladly work with and recommend other reputable hardware resellers from Belgrade to Bangkok and everywhere in between. 

Busting IBM Business Partner myths

While most IBM Business Partners are made up of honest folks, sometimes you hear flat-out nonsense that some partners try to get away with telling their customers — and they sometimes succeed, too. 

Things like, “Our current IBM Business Partner says only they can upgrade our system,” or “We need our current IBM Business Partner to sell us a new system because they won’t issue us any licence keys to their software if they don’t.” 

The former is utter foolishness. Anyone can do an IBM i upgrade. We just happen to arguably do more OS upgrades than anyone and have it down to a science. When IBM comes out with a new IBM i release, we’ve already upgraded it roughly forty times as part of the beta team, while most other partners are first reading the Memo to Users for that release. 

We’ve already provided our input and helped determine features and functionality in the new operating system as part of the COMMON Americas Advisory Council and the IBM Champion programme, sometimes a couple of years in advance. We know what’s new because we helped define what it should look like through our involvement in advocacy groups. And that’s down to the bare metal; I remember discussing the chassis size of Power10 units a few months before that line of servers was announced! 

The latter is a little more complicated when referring to licence keys. I’ve seen firsthand where a partner, who is also a customer’s software vendor, will protect their investment by holding licence keys hostage if they attempt to use another partner. And the customer is trapped to some degree. It’s unfortunate and unethical, but it does happen. I’ve also seen those software vendor partners inflate the cost of new hardware to force their customers into their cloud. 

I remember a few years ago when we were asked to give a second opinion on a machine configuration. It should’ve been a simple box that probably would’ve cost around $50,000 list price, coming from a small P05 Power7 with eight disk drives, 32 GB RAM, a four-processor core machine with one IBM i licence and unlimited users. They also needed a new tape unit. What was the cost for the proposed configuration they received? Over $250,000. The other partner configured five or six licences of IBM i on an eight-core Power9, quadrupled the RAM, maxed out the system unit with SSDs and surprisingly added an expansion drawer for more SSDs. 

We knew the customer was in a pickle and did what anyone with an inkling of decency would do: we configured a properly sized box that cost about $50,000, including the tape unit, and gave it to the customer with my compliments. Then, I called the proper channels at IBM and told them what the other partner was doing. Nobody should be given the gears like that customer was. It’s neither ethical nor moral and violates the Business Partner Agreement. 

Do you know what usually happens in a situation like that? After a conversation with us, a customer may be forced to buy a server from their old partner (with our properly sized configuration recommendations) but come to us for the migration services. We start building that relationship by doing the upgrades and answering the calls when the customer needs trusted advice. 

Who cares if we don’t sell a machine? Big deal. The customer knows the configuration is solid, and they’re not getting ripped off. We’ll always review the old partner’s proposed configuration and turn it into Swiss cheese if they’re trying to sneak in an extra Ethernet card the customer doesn’t need — because that’s what a partner does. 

IBM i education from your Business Partner

What about education? If your partner isn’t providing you with hundreds of hours of complimentary educational content every year for your benefit, you should give us a call. 

Forget about your education for a second. When was the last time your existing partner educated themselves? It’s funny because when we do webinars, we see other partners on them, and that’s cool with us. There are plenty of partners that do a great job, and we happily break bread and consult with many of them. Sometimes they need help, and sometimes we need help. That’s how good working relationships work. We know many customers who can teach some partners about IBM i 7.4 features. We have a pretty good idea of which partners aren’t keeping their skills sharp based on some of the configurations we give second opinions on. 

Say it with me: production servers don’t need 10k RPM spinning disks in their SAN purchase. Yes, we still see that, not for historical low-I/O data but for production workloads. I hope their customers aren’t expecting things like performance. 

So, how do you change your IBM Business Partner?

It all starts with a call or an email. Then, we start working together as a partnership. It’s nothing more complicated than that. With that in mind, we hope to hear from you soon and will continuously strive to earn your business. 

Switching to Service Express as your business partner is like turning on the lights to value you didn’t even know was there. Let us shine a light on your IBM i possibilities — it’s as easy as flipping a switch. Contact us. 


About the Author

Steve Pitcher | Service Express Steve Pitcher

Steve is a Sales Consultant and Security Engineer at Service Express with decades of IBM i and security experience. He’s also a longtime IBM Champion.

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