Latest news and headlines about IBM (NYSE: IBM):

IBM is getting more sociable with its channel partners, who drive some one third of its annual sales.

Big Blue announced Tuesday a social networking site for its partners, , a project that it hopes will increase global collaboration for sharing of ideas – and making sales.

At the site, channel partners can publish web pages, blogs, forums and share news.

"We thought it would be appropriate at this time to provide a social-networking capability for our partners, to help them be more effective and productive," Rich Hume, general manager of IBM’s Global Business Partners program,

IBM also plans to offer more online training forums and seminars for its partners.

“Think of it as Facebook for the channel,” “Hume said the company increasingly needs to bring expertise together among systems integrators who previously didn’t work together. Projects like digitizing health records, energy metering and transportation architecture often need multiple disciplines to carry out a project.”

At a meeting with channel partners, IBM Chief Executive Officer Sam Palmisano hailed them for their contributions.

"Clients’ needs are clear: save money, preserve capital and reduce costs," he said, according to Reuters. "With your partnership, we help them do that … You are critical to IBM’s success."

Also Tuesday, IBM announced a five-year contract worth $595 million to provide IT services to Australian telecommunications firm Telstra Corp. It’s a renewal of an existing contract.

According to the Associated Press, the services deal is the largest for IBM in more than a year.

IBM employs some 11,000 people in the RTP area, making it the company’s largest campus.