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Compared to the supply chain issues and Cisco's vision for how solution providers will compete in collaboration, in video and in the data center, the net effect of HP at the Partner Summit has been one of minor distraction -- though never too far from the discussion.
Some VARs said the argument that partners can make bigger profits selling HP over Cisco in networking is true in the sense of undercutting Cisco on price. But Cisco's bigger picture, they said, is more compelling: an organized strategy around building converged, video-ready data center infrastructure with the network at the center of it, and driving products and technology that support that strategy.
"Margins are compressed on the Cisco side, no doubt. It's not a viable product-only business model for the channel, so HP positions itself as better margin and lower cost," Belyea said. "But where's the message about major infrastructure investment there? You can't just follow what Cisco's doing at a lower price."
Cisco can follow through on its promise to be a viable competitor to HP without replaying the aggressive rhetoric, others said.
"Last year Cisco took action and also gave HP notice on the reseller contract side. They heard what the channel community has asked for them to do, and they took appropriate action. Looking in the rear view mirror isn't going to change it," said Long View's MacDonald. "At the end of the day, the challenge in the networking side is a positive development. May the best technology win."
According to Comstor's Pritchard, the HP vs. Cisco rivalry is no more dramatic than other examples of business bravado the channel sees every few years.
"Cisco is going to be successful in this space. Whatever you say about anything, the technology and how it fits together is going to continue to be there," he said. "My view? Let the customer decide. You're always going to have spats in the market. Cisco is ambitious and you weren't just going to have HP and IBM move aside, right? What's interesting now is the HP approach versus the IBM approach. HP is very publicly puffing its chest. IBM is saying, I prefer to be everyone's friend, where's the joint opportunity. In the end, all of them are going to do what they're going to do."