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Baird survey shows optimistic Q1, VAR kudos for HP, Sun

Financial analyst report predicts HP and Sun will do well for VARs during what looks like a positive customer-spending trend Q1 and throughout 2007.

If 2007 is going to be a solid year for the sale of server and storage hardware through the channel, some of the credit will go to a pair of vendors that may be underappreciated, according to a recent report from R. W. Baird & Co.

The overall outlook for the first quarter of this year looks promising, according to Baird research.

  • 80% of VARs expect enterprise spending on servers and storage to go up between 5% and 15%;
  • 20% of the U.S. sample expects budgets to rise at least 25% compared to 2006;
  • 87% of VARs responding are on track or above their own sales projections;
  • 53% expect Windows Vista to have a positive impact; 37% expect no impact.

    Baird's analysts -- who do regular, detailed surveys of distributors and value-added resellers (VARs) to judge the financial health of the companies that sell through the channel – said Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sun Microsystems, Inc. are both generating more interest from end users than they have for several years, and are both improving relationships with sales through the channel.

    "VARs continue to attest to HP's enterprise improvements, especially in Europe," according to the report from Daniel Renouard and Frank Timons at Baird, in Madison, Wisc. "HP is among the leaders of vendors from whom VARs expect to sell more in 2007. A majority of VARs view HP as improving in servers and storage.

    "We believe HP is beginning to execute better in the field, and still has room for improvement."

    Much of the recent rapprochement with the channel comes from CEO Jeff Hurd, who "gave channel partners a bear hug and said 'if you're with us, you're with us; if you're not selling enough product, you're going to get fired,'" the analysts said.

    Reaction of channel companies was mixed – larger companies stand to gain from HP's new stance while smaller ones stand to lose – but the overall effect has been positive.

    Sun may be starting on a similar course by refocusing on its installed base and that of its StorageTek subsidiary. Part of its new strategy is to work harder at making Sun channel sales profitable for the channel. But it will be another quarter or more before sales and channel-response data will indicate if the approach is successful.

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