HP Brings Big Data To Channel With Vertica Analytics Certification

Hewlett-Packard on Wednesday launched a training and certification course for partners looking to sell its Vertica Analytics Platform, which along with Autonomy forms the basis of HP's nascent big data strategy.

The Vertica certification, part of HP's ExpertOne converged infrastructure training program, is aimed at system administrators, database analysts and application developers. Through coursework and on-the-job training, partners learn how to install, troubleshoot, manage data and keep track of database performance. Once they've completed the training, partners take an exam to prove they've absorbed the knowledge.

Partners can obtain the Vertica certification in person through a three-day class, or they can opt for a four-day virtual training course. Both options cost $2,000, and HP is also offering a private training course for $7,500.

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HP, which acquired Cambridge, Mass.-based Vertica in March of 2011, says the unit saw triple-digit revenue growth during fiscal 2012. HP Software chief George Kadifa has suggested Vertica has the potential to become a billion-dollar business.

Yet for all this momentum, HP has been slow to roll out Vertica to the channel. Part of this is because big data is still relatively new, and not all partners are equipped, from a skills standpoint, to sell and deploy the technologies involved.

Chris Selland, who joined HP in August as vice president of marketing for Vertica, told CRN the Vertica certification is attracting interest from HP partners eager to get up to speed on big data. "There is a tremendous amount of enthusiasm in the channel," both for the Vertica appliance and Vertica AppSystem that HP currently sells, Selland said in an interview.

HP also recently added its HP ATP -- Vertica Big Data Solutions V1 career certification for big data professionals working with the Vertica Analytics Platform.

Bret Osborn, president of Lilien Systems, a Larkspur, Calif.-based HP partner, says offering a Vertica certification is important to developing a knowledge base around an analytics platform that can be very complex for newcomers.

"The opportunity around Vertica is huge, but the level of expertise it takes to assess, design, implement and assure a solution it is also huge. Having a certification program will help HP, partners and, most importantly, the customer," Osborn told CRN.

NEXT: How HP Views Its Competition In Big Data

HP is facing stiff competition in the big data space, from scrappy startups to established big names like SAP Hana, IBM Neteeza and EMC Greenplum. Given the abundance of alternatives, one longtime HP partner executive told CRN he doesn't think the Vertica certification is worth the investment.

"The HP hardware certifications are intense, and we would not invest the time in Vertica due to the long sales cycles," said the executive, who requested anonymity to avoid damaging his other HP business relationships.

HP's Selland says HP rarely runs into big data startups in competitive situations, though he acknowledges that HP does regularly compete with Greenplum and IBM Neteeza. Vertica's performance is the key differentiator that is helping HP to "win more than our fair share of deals," Selland said.

Competition for big data talent is intense and growing fiercer, and Vertica has already seen former CEO Chris Lynch and several other top sales, marketing and engineering staffers depart for greener pastures in the emerging big data hotspot of Boston.

HP certainly isn't alone in facing the threat of big data talent poaching, but Selland doesn't see this as a long term problem. In fact, he says Vertica's marketing department has grown 300 percent since he joined HP.

"People move, but I don't see us having a high attrition rate. I would say the rate is relatively low," Selland told CRN.

Selland wouldn't give a figure for how much HP intends to spend on marketing Vertica in the coming year, but he told CRN HP's senior management is paying plenty of attention to the unit.

"There is a great deal of commitment inside HP to what we are doing at Vertica. I can see we are getting a pretty high profile inside the organization, and there is a ton of growth opportunity," Selland said.

With Vertica certification now available, partners will now look for HP to shed more light on its plans for bringing Autonomy to the channel, which it has previously earmarked as part of its big data strategy.