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Hewlett-Packard acquisition of software vendor could threaten channel

Hewlett-Packard has its eyes on a major software acquisition, a move that could take hardware and software integration opportunities away from channel partners.

Hewlett-Packard Co.'s acquisition plans in the software market could spell bad news for systems integrators (SIs), according to observers.

Thomas Hogan, HP's senior vice president of software, told Reuters recently that he'd like Hewlett-Packard to make an acquisition in the data management and business intelligence markets sometime in the next 12 months -- and would be willing to spend as much as $10 billion for the right company. IDC business software analyst Dan Vesset said HP needs to make a move to keep up with IBM, its closest competitor, which bought business intelligence vendor Cognos earlier this month for $5 billion.

"Clearly HP is one of the leading hardware vendors," Vesset said. "They have a long way to go in trying to be a software provider."

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But HP's new interest in software could threaten SIs, who make their money bridging the gap between hardware and software for customers.

"They're already building up their own system integration capabilities, and that will certainly hurt their relationships with others," Vesset said.

The SIs who will feel the effects the most are those that partner with any software vendor that is part of a Hewlett-Packard acquisition, said Patrick Vaughan, a sales director for DLT Solutions, a solutions provider based in Herndon, Va.

"That's a scary proposition," he said. "Whoever it is, those channel partners are going to be reeling."

Hogan did not name any potential acquisition targets, and HP declined an interview request with this week. The company issued a statement that said "HP does not comment on rumors and speculation regarding acquisitions."

If HP is looking to make a splash with a major business intelligence acquisition, its options are few and far between. IBM's purchase of Cognos earlier this month followed SAP's acquisition of Business Objects in October and Hyperion Solutions' sale to Oracle in April.

"There isn't anything that big left," Vesset said.

Boris Evelson, principal analyst for Forrester Research, wrote in a recent blog post that "HP will now have to pursue smaller, more niche BI opportunities."

On the data management side, Teradata -- a publicly traded, nearly $2 billion vendor based in Dayton, Ohio -- would be a good Hewlett-Packard acquisition target because it would put HP into the top position in the market for data warehousing, customer relationship management (CRM) and financial reporting applications, Vesset said.

Channel partners aren't the only ones who could face negative repercussions from a major Hewlett-Packard acquisition. Vendors that partner with HP, IBM and other vendors moving more heavily into data management -- such as HP and IBM partner Oracle Corp. -- will see partners grow to need them less.

Certainly that was the case with IBM's acquisition of Cognos and the impact it had on vendor and channel partners of both companies, Evelson wrote.

"I am sure 'politically correct' answers from both companies [about the impact on partners] will be, 'status quo,'" he wrote, "but I don't think that'll cut it for IBM sales force, pitching to the same accounts and for the same opportunities."

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