HP Takes The Wraps Off Cloud-Focused Channel Program

HP on Tuesday took a significant step toward fulfilling its ambitions in cloud computing by launching its CloudSystem partner program, which includes tools that partners can use to develop cloud skills and guidance on the all-important business model changes the cloud requires.

As the name suggests, the program is based on HP's CloudSystem portfolio, a set of technologies for delivering and managing cloud services, from internal cloud services in the customer’s data center to HP-hosted clouds or external sources such as Amazon EC2. It encompasses BladeSystem Matrix, which HP has renamed CloudSystem Matrix, as well as Cloud Service Automation software. Cloud Maps, pre-configured templates, workflows and deployment scripts for cloud services, is also included.

HP has been assembling its cloud portfolio over the last 18 months and is now offering partners a program they can use today to make money, said Frank Rauch, vice president of channel sales for HP's Enterprise Storage Server Networking (ESSN) group, in an interview at HP's Americas Partner Conference in Las Vegas.

"We had piece parts of it, but we never really had this level of detail," Rauch told CRN. "This is day one stuff that partners can sell right now. They can monetize it and they can make margin on it."

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Rauch touted early partner momentum around another CloudSystem program element called Cloud Centers of Excellence, which basically allow partners to transform their facilities into cloud demonstration sites running on HP infrastructure. HP is currently working with Sirius, Forsythe, Presidio and other partners to build 20 Cloud Centers of Excellence, with 18 more committed over the next three months, according to Rauch.

"This is where customers can do proof of concepts, demand generation, and customer seminars," said Rauch. "HP's field loves it, and they're driving customers into the partners as a result of this."

HP is giving partners discounts on the hardware to build Cloud Centers Of Excellence and allowing them to use market development funds, but partners are investing their own money as well, Rauch noted. HP recently added 3Par storage solutions and TippingPoint security to the technology mix.

HP channel partners said the importance of bringing multiple disparate technologies into play for partners under a single program shouldn't be underestimated.

"We've always been working in silos with HP, with all the different business segments, and it's been very frustrating at times when you're trying to bring several of them together," said Jeff Scully, senior sales consultant at Bayshore Technologies, a Tampa, Fla.-based HP Gold and Elite health-care partner. "There were complaints in the past, but now they've realized that and they're making everything work together as a cohesive unit, and not some gigantic aircraft carrier with multiple different parts."

Next: Other HP Partners Weigh In On CloudSystem

Michael Haley, president of Edge Solutions, a $17 million Alpharetta, Ga. HP partner, said he has made selling HP services, including cloud services, part of his business model. "We try to use HP Services all the time," he said. "We started the business two years ago so we didn't have a legacy services business. Using HP adds good services delivery capabilities and reduces our fixed costs." He praised HP services leadership team for "making it a lot easier for us to use their services."

HP in February launched its Cloud Enablement program, which gives partners financial incentives, as well as engineering and expertise, to build their own cloud service delivery platforms using HP's Converged Infrastructure portfolio.

At the same time, HP began holding a series of one-and two-day Cloud Discovery workshops, in which HP professionals teach partners about cloud business models, security implications and services delivery best practices. The new CloudSystem partner program unites all of these initiatives under a single umbrella, and Rauch says the formalization it represents shows how far HP has come in a relatively short time.

"Three months ago, partners couldn't sell Cloud Discovery Workshops, or CloudMaps, but now they are," said Rauch. In two or three months, partners will also be able to sell CloudStart, a deployment offering HP rolled out last August that includes the hardware, software and services to build and deploy a private cloud within 30 days, Rauch said.

While partners are impressed with HP's momentum in the cloud, some are also wary of its implications for the channel. Bob Venero, president and CEO of Future Tech, a Holbrook, N.Y. solution provider, said he will look at reselling HP's cloud services on an opportunity-by-opportunity by basis.

"The good and bad with that is that those partners that haven't invested in their own sales, consulting and technicians now have an even playing field without those that have made investments in their own services. It hurts partners that have invested in their own services," Venero said. "Everything is starting to get into a commodity type world, and I would hate to see cloud equal commodity."

Harry Zarek, president and CEO of Compugen, a Richmond Hill, Ontario HP partner, said he will consider HP's cloud services offerings, but he cautioned that "the challenge we have is every OEM and software vendor has their own channel program on cloud. The fact of the matter is we can't implement all of them."