HP Tuesday upped the ante in the battle against the VMware-Cisco-EMC alliance by hiring one of VMware's top U.S. executives, Richard Geraffo Jr., as senior vice president and managing director of the Americas for HP's $54 billion Enterprise Business group.
Geraffo brings critical insider knowledge of the technical and sales pain points associated with the VCE (VMware-Cisco-EMC, or Virtual Computing Environment) alliance, which competes with HP in building data center infrastructures and compute clouds.
But more than possessing knowledge of VMware's technical and sales DNA, partners said, Geraffo is a strong channel booster who will definitely help drive increased virtualization and cloud channel sales for HP channel partners.
"I know him," said Rich Baldwin, CEO of Nth Generation Computing, a San Diego-based solution provider and HP partner. "He's the kind of leader we need for HP."
Baldwin said he has known Geraffo for a relatively short time, but he's proven to be a positive influence for the channel."He's a fan of the channel," he said. "This could help HP be more channel-centric."
Geraffo replaces Tom Iannotti, who was appointed two months ago to lead HP Enterprise Services.
Baldwin said he expects Geraffo to be more accessible to channel partners than Iannotti. "Tom is more of a behind-the-scenes guy," he said. "Rich has been more outgoing. In his first month at VMware, he came to our office to visit us. That personal touch is important. He wants to know who the partners are."
It also helps that Geraffo brings a strong software perspective to HP, Baldwin said. "That's good for us," he said. "We're moving more and more towards software and services."
Rick Chernick, CEO of Camera Corner Connecting Point, a Green Bay, Wis.-based HP reseller, said the hiring of Geraffo is just another sign of HP's willingness to bring in top outside talent to drive market share gains.
"You have to keep surrounding yourself with better players," said Chernick. "That is how you change and grow your business. I don't care if it is in accounting, engineering or sales, the better the people you surround yourself with the stronger your company is. Companies with weak people go out of business."
Chernick said he sees Geraffo giving HP a big cloud-virtualization boost from both a sales and strategy standpoint. "This makes HP even stronger in large corporations doing virtualization and cloud, which go hand in hand. Geraffo is a top notch guy that is going to bring it for HP."
For its part, VMware was clearly disappointed by Geraffo's departure.
"Rich has done a great job over the last 19 months running the Americas and will certainly be missed," said VMware Executive Vice President Global Field Operations Carl Eschenbach in a memo informing VMware partners of Geraffo's departure. "He has strengthened the foundation of the Americas team. We now must build multiple stories on top of the foundation he helped lay and take the Americas to a new altitude. We can only wish Rich success in the future and look forward to partnering with him in his new role."
Just how that partnership will develop is the big question since the VCE alliance represents what effectively amounts to a high-stakes gamble by VMware and its corporate parent EMC to team with network leader Cisco to take away the data center high ground from HP.
The alliance puts VMware in a sales tussle with HP, one of its largest customers. HP early on was a big VMware booster driving unprecedented server consolidation in the corporations.
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Geraffo's appointment came as part of what HP is calling the "next chapter in the evolution" of the HP Enterprise Business Group.
HP on Tuesday also appointed Thomas Hogan, who up until now oversaw the HP Software & Solutions Business unit as executive vice president of sales, marketing and strategy for HP Enterprise Business.
"Tom's track record of results, growth and leadership will be critical to our commitment and opportunity for market leadership in the enterprise," said HP Enterprise Business Executive Vice President Ann Livermore in a prepared statement.
HP also said Francesco Serafini, senior vice president and managing director for HP Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), will become executive vice president of Emerging Markets, reporting to the HP Executive Council. In this newly created role, Serafini will head strategy, planning, coordination and growth initiatives across all emerging market countries.
Jan Zadak, senior vice president of sales for HP Enterprise Business in EMEA, will replace Serafini as senior vice president and managing director for HP EMEA.
Finally, HP said Piau Phang Foo, senior vice president and managing director for HP Asia Pacific Japan, will become senior vice president and managing director, HP Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ).
Piau Phang Foo replaces Doraisamy Balu, who will be retiring from the company effective June 30, 2010.
These follow other recent hires at HP aimed at boosting the company in a variety of areas.
HP in March brought on former Lenovo executive Stephen DiFranco as the new channel chief in HP's Americas region, where he replaced Adrian Jones.
The company in November hired Tom Joyce as vice president of marketing, strategy, and operations for its storage business. Joyce is a six-year veteran of EMC, which he left in 2007 for stints at storage vendor Akorri and server vendor Stratus Technologies.
A year ago, HP appointed David Donatelli as its executive vice president for Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking. Donatelli came from EMC, where he had served as president of EMC's Storage division.