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Cisco's top sales executive took aim at several major Cisco competitors this week, saying that Hewlett-Packard, in particular, has lost trust with the channel thanks to an extended period of "confusion."
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In an exclusive interview with CRN on the eve of the company’s annual partner conference, Rob Lloyd, Cisco's executive vice president, worldwide operations, said HP has also made matters worse with what he called a cloud strategy that opens the door for channel conflict.
"HP announced their cloud strategy to go more direct and built direct cloud offers," Lloyd said. "It's just another confusing part [of the strategy] for the partners to understand. When we talked about our cloud plans last year and this year, we are enabling our partners to participate in the cloud. HP is going to compete more aggressively with their partners in delivering cloud. That's another confusing message."
In sharp contrast, Lloyd said, Cisco has created "trust-based relationships around our strategy for the cloud." Cisco during last year's Partner Summit launched its Cloud Partner Program, organizing Cisco solution providers into cloud builders, cloud providers, cloud services resellers.
"Along the way, the various moves that HP looked at very much confused their partners, and that broke some of the significant trust that had existed from the Compaq days and all of that," Lloyd. "Their challenge is a bit of a lack of trust."
Lloyd also characterized HP as a technology laggard, calling out HP’s pullback in R&D spending over the past decade as weakening the company’s ability to be an innovator.
It isn't the first time in the past year that Cisco executives, and Lloyd in particular, have taken aim at HP. The once-friendly technology companies have been increasingly bitter competitors since they began to encroach on each other's respective data center and networking turf about four years ago.
Last fall, in a much-discussed internal memo sent from Lloyd's office to Cisco field sales employees, Cisco highlighted how HP was "struggling to provide a clear direction and strategy, leaving employees, customers, financial markets, industry influencers and their channel thoroughly confused."
HP at that point had fired former CEO Leo Apotheker and installed current CEO Meg Whitman not one week earlier, and was still reeling from partner and industry reaction to a series of announcements made in August, including that it was considering divesting its enormous PC unit and would discontinue the much-ballyhooed TouchPad tablet.
Lloyd's comments come at a time where competition between HP and Cisco is continuously fierce, and Cisco is emerging from a painful corporate restructuring as, ostensibly, a more streamlined company less tethered to bureaucracy and more focused on core technology priorities.
Cisco executives have told CRN throughout the past year that Cisco will be more aggressive about calling out competitors publicly -- a break from Cisco's more traditional approach of not highlighting competitors so explicitly.
"We're just going to keep doing what we do, spending on R&D, private cloud, collaboration, data center and innovation," Lloyd told CRN. "We're going to double down on these big changes we see happening. The opportunity for Cisco right now is to do very well [against] HP, especially with our partners, because of the current state of confusion and a lower trust level than we might have seen in the past."