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HP data center push targets Cisco

Hewlett-Packard VARs got their marching orders at the Americas Partner Conference: Push HP data center infrastructure to counter Cisco and gain more SMB business at Dell's expense.

LAS VEGAS -- Hewlett-Packard Co. wants its VARs to counter Cisco Systems' data center push and take a big chunk of Dell's SMB business.

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Top takeaways from Hewlett Packard APC 2010

HP's data center hardware and converged infrastructure dominated the discussion here at the HP Americas Partner Conference 2010, as executives from CEO Mark Hurd on down pushed partners to battle Cisco and Dell. Many of these partners have ties to Cisco as well, so they face a tough choice. Cisco Systems Inc. is hosting its own partner summit this week in San Francisco and is no doubt blaring a similar message.

Real interest in the converged HP data center?

The question: Is converged infrastructure more a land-grab on the part of vendors, or is there genuine, customer-driven demand? VARs said many customers are loath to rely on one vendor for all of their data center hardware because they would lose the pricing leverage that comes from pitting vendors against each other.

"The converged data center is somewhat driven by vendor-generated demand and vendor interoperability, but the real driver is the customer's desire to [reduce costs]," said Mark Melvin, CTO of Eplus Inc., a Herndon, Va., integrator. "It also does not have to be a single-vendor initiative. Cisco has a multi-tenancy alliance with NetApp and VMware and EMC's [Virtual Computing Environment coalition]."

Some VARs privately say they're getting pressure from HP and Cisco to stop pushing the other vendor's gear. But the VARs must remain customer focused.

"As long as you listen to what the customer wants, you're OK," said Brenda Stallings, president of Matrix Integration in Jasper, Ind. HP has been good about supporting that, she said.

An executive with a large New England VAR, however, said it's clear the pressure is on internally at HP -- and his company is feeling it.

"It's not a good time to be in HP sales," this executive said. "It's not fun."

That's because of a top-down mandate to boost attach rates -- that is, to get HP server VARs to sell accompanying storage, networking and whatever else is in the portfolio, he said. As Ann Livermore, executive vice president of HP Enterprise, told attendees, "We want you to sell more of our stuff together."

SMB push targets Dell

As for the small and medium-sized business (SMB) push against Dell, HP is putting its money where its mouth is, hiring 16 partner sales reps to generate channel sales from its Rio Rancho, N.M., call center.

That move is just one of many directed against "our friends in Texas," said Stephen DeWitt, senior vice president for the Americas region of HP's Personal Systems Group.

Many HP partners are jazzed about this SMB push, because Dell is historically a target thanks to its direct sales history. They see a lot of potential for more SMB business, although they said it's tough to crack because the little businesses are so different from each other. HP execs acknowledged that as well.

"One size definitely does not fit all," said Meaghan Kelly, vice president of strategy and SMB for HP.

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