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Coming To The Dance With HP
HP isn’t about to go on record as saying that it demands exclusivity from its channel partners -- quite the opposite, in fact. And HP’s partners aren’t exactly bolting for the exits, even if some say the pressure to sell the full HP data center stack is as strong as it’s ever been.
“Listen, it’s always easier when you have a relationship that’s quote-unquote exclusive. But I don’t think our view is that the world has to be exclusive. We’re very comfortable in a co-opetive environment and have been for a very long time,” said HP CEO Mark Hurd in an interview with CRN earlier this year.
David Donatelli, general manager of HP’s Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking unit, reprised that statement in April, going so far as to declare that “there will be no pressure exerted” on HP partners to pick sides in the computing giant’s growing feud with Cisco, “other than us offering great products.”
That sounds pretty good for solution providers looking to keep their vendors honest and competing for partner business. Knowing how the hard-charging Hurd and Donatelli operate, however, it also sounds a bit too good to be true.
For a start, Hurd is up-front about describing HP channel partners as “an extension of the HP sales force.” HP’s new Emerging Growth Accounts program fires up partners with “a Dell attack program, a Sun attack program and an IBM attack program,” according to Marc Sarazin, executive vice president of sales and marketing at HP partner AdvizeX Technologies, Burlington, Mass.
And when it comes to Cisco, the networking giant that Hurd and Co. has squarely in its sights, some partners have made it clear that they’re 100 percent on HP’s side. Sarazin said AdvizeX “recently made a strategic decision to go to market with HP networking and not Cisco.” Other HP partners aren’t as happy about playing the exclusivity game. They say there is a lot of unwanted pressure on them to go into customer engagements with the total HP portfolio or not at all. One HP partner in the Northeast who asked not to be named also had a deal registration kicked over to another solution provider earlier this year because his company bid with non-HP products in a data center project.
Simon Palmer, president of Tustin, Calif.-based HP partner STA, said “no manufacturer out there should push exclusivity,” yet offered a different way of looking at the issue: “But they can earn it.”
“I think HP’s doing a good job of acknowledging that option for choice in the market,” Palmer said. “Quite honestly, as a solution provider in front of the customer you can appear biased when you’re not offering a choice. You present a more balanced view when you present a broader view,” he said.
Palmer touched on the notion of STA being “an extension of the HP sales force,” saying it’s a useful idea but one that shouldn’t be taken too far. “We can act as an extension of their sales force,” he said. “But we are different companies run with different metrics. And sometimes those models and metrics aren’t going to add up when laid out side by side. And that’s where you have to be an adult and say, ‘Hey guys, this just isn’t going to work.’ ”
The main code Palmer lives by when working with vendors like HP and others is to follow through on what he has said he’ll do. “We have very specific rules of engagement with our sales force,” he said. “We don’t flip at the last minute if the customer wants a different brand after we’ve brought in HP or another vendor. You have to recognize that there is serious competition at the manufacturer level. We’ve always been very up-front with manufacturers that whomever we come to the dance with, we’ll leave with.” —Damon Poeter
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