For example, in HP's revamped Data Center Elite designation, the company urges HP partners that already have server and storage expertise to add ProCurve networking know-how to their dance card.
"Today, it's mandatory to have a storage practice and a virtualization practice and a server practice [to be Elite], and we're [going to add] networking," said Tom LaRocca, vice president of marketing and strategy for HP's solution partners organization.
Sometime in the next six to nine months, HP will make that ProCurve competency mandatory for Elite status, LaRocca added. Right now, "If you're a data center Elite [partner] and a ProCurve elite, you'll get additional margin," he said, without specifying the differential.
While HP has encouraged partners to get virtualization smarts, particularly in VMware technologies, the reconfigured Virtualization Elite designation that will let HP partners with virtualization certifications from VMware, Citrix and/or Microsoft parlay them into higher HP partner status.
That sounds good to Rick Chernick, CEO of Camera Corner/Connecting Point, a Green Bay, Wis., HP partner. "We already do Citrix and Hyper-V and VMware, with VMware being particularly powerful for us right now," he said. To be able to apply existing virtualization certifications and training within the HP program would be compelling, he added.
LaRocca characterized Virtualization Elite as an evolution of the company's existing Blade System Elite designation. The fact that HP now accepts Microsoft Hyper-V and Citrix credentials is an acknowledgement that VMware is no longer the only server virtualization game in town.
There will also be emphasis on LeftHand storage solutions -- HP acquired LeftHand Networks last year in what was seen as a response to Dell's buyout of EqualLogic.
LeftHand is also part of the rejiggered Virtualization elite. "We're integrating it into the enterprise server and storage programs so it's now part of the same deal registration system," LaRocca said.
The LeftHand buyout "plugged a big hole" for HP, said John Convery, executive vice president for Denali Advanced Integration, an HP partner in Redmond, Wash. Indeed, many partners at the company's last big partner conference two years ago asked HP CEO Mark Hurd about gaps in its storage lineup. He pledged to address them.
HP melds partner program to reflect unified computing push
The growing emphasis on HP ProCurve networking in the midmarket comes at a time of heightened competition with Cisco Systems, which had nurtured a tight server partnership with HP until launching its own server business earlier this year. Now the gloves are off up and down the customer segments between HP and Cisco.
ProCurve networking hardware always competed with Cisco, but HP has upped the ante recently making it more competitive against the Cisco juggernaut. "ProCurve has come a long way. It used to be considered kind of a low-end, crappy version of Cisco, but not anymore," Zeus Kerravala, senior vice president of enterprise research at Yankee Group Research Inc., told SearchITChannel.com recently.
CC/CP's Chernick, who does business with both Cisco and HP, agreed that HP ProCurve networking has made up ground. "That business is doing well and customers are comfortable with ProCurve now where that was not always the case," he said.
Just as HP corporate is pushing more converged data center hardware, it wants its partners selling more HP gear across categories into SMBs.
HP pushes POS
HP also, in response to VAR input, added a Storage Solutions Elite designation to push into the retail vertical with point-of-sale (POS) systems. Participating VARs will get back-end rebates, more demo units and "Store Solutions" branding for selling POS solutions. Jill Steinberg, president of Value Channel, a Miami-based POS specialist and HP partner, loved this addition and is waiting to see HP solutions tailored for this market.
"If HP comes out with a low-cost alternative to other systems made almost exclusively for POS, it would be a winner," she said. "In a POS environment, especially in hospitality [services], the computer needs to be durable. Spills, dust, grease, sugar and flour can creep in and cause the fan to stop spinning, the touch screen to freeze or the CPU to corrode."
HP already fields a laptop that could be adapted to the POS and the company would also need to provide POS-tailored printers and accessories, Steinberg added.