HP Cloud Centers Gaining Traction, Creating Partner Opportunities

HP unveiled its cloud-focused channel program earlier

And, so far, the centers have gained enough traction that the Palo Alto, Calif.-based tech giant plans to have more than 50 such centers in place by the end of fiscal 2011.

The Cloud Centers of Excellence let partners transform their facilities into cloud demonstration sites to showcase different HP cloud infrastructure, and other integrated offerings, said Frank Rauch, HP vice president enterprise servers, storage and networking channel sales. So far, Rauch said, 19 HP Cloud Centers of Excellence have been established at partner facilities nationwide, and 37 will be operational come the end of October. The program includes HP Converged Infrastructure solutions, automation software, training and financial incentives that Rauch said lets partners beef up their cloud revenue and sales.

The Cloud Centers of Excellence feature HP CloudSystem, HP's integrated solution for building and managing services across private, public and hybrid cloud environments. The centers also feature HP Storage and HP Networking solutions, including HP Tipping Point network security offerings, 3Par storage and third party applications, Rauch said.

Rauch called the centers a "rallying point" for partners and potential customers by giving partners cloud demo capabilities they lacked previously.

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"The field is really driving people to these Cloud Centers of Excellence," Rauch said, and while every visit doesn't necessarily turn into a cloud sale, Rauch said centers are instrumental in closing the revenue gap between cloud discussions and cloud sales, while also helping HP's cloud channel develop relationships and create stickiness.

The investment costs vary partner to partner, but Rauch said most HP Cloud Centers of Excellence run in the six-figure range, from mid to large. The cloud centers target higher-end partners that already sell relatively sophisticated data center solutions to the midmarket and enterprise.

While Rauch said he couldn't say specifically what type of revenue cloud centers are driving for partners, he said there's a "high correlation" between cloud centers and cloud sales starting to emerge.

Leigh Carpenter, director of strategy services for Nth Generation Computing, a San Diego-based HP partner that has had a Cloud Center of Excellence on-site for the last five months, said that so far a handful of opportunities have come to fruition via the center and more are expected. The longer sales cycle of major cloud deployments, however, make it difficult to quantify.

"We've had four or five opportunities that have come out of it," she said.

The center, she said, has been a valuable tool to get potential customers up to speed with the cloud and showcase what Nth Generation brings to the table. Carpenter said HP teams have also come through to get up to speed with the cloud products from an education and training standpoint.

"We can show clients we're closely aligned with HP and we have the expertise in this area," Carpenter said, adding it creates an opportunity for us to show the full functionality of the HP Matrix Operating Environment and other offerings.

"It's giving them the ability to demonstrate cloud technologies," Rauch said. "We need to be able to show them how to manage it and secure it … we need to be able to show this is real."