Solution Providers: HP Has An Edge In Cloud Battle With Cisco

Cisco Systems may have attempted to rain on Hewlett-Packard's partner parade by unveiling its own public cloud on the first day of the HP Global Partner Conference, but HP solution providers say it is Cisco that is coming up short in the cloud battle.

Partners say HP's broad product and services portfolio, including Shark converged systems combining server, storage, networking and applications, along with critical software assets like cloud services automation software and the company's HAVEn big data platform make HP the better cloud partner.

[Related: Cisco Aims To Disrupt Tech Industry With Public Cloud Offensive ]

"From a practical standpoint, being able to bring a converged solution to your customer is just easier with HP. It is not easy with Cisco, and I will tell the Cisco execs that this week because we are also participating in [Cisco Partner] Summit," said Kris Rogers, senior vice president, partner and product management for PCM, a $1.5 billion national solution provider power that is a top HP and Cisco partner.

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Cisco's VCE partnership to sell converged infrastructure with VMware and EMC is simply not as easy to pull together as an HP converged systems cloud solution, said Rogers. "VCE is not simple to deliver from a partner perspective," she said. "Those are some of the challenges Cisco faces to be competitive."

What's more, Rogers said, HP's PartnerOne channel program is a much more profitable program than the Cisco channel program. "HP has a much more robust program," she said. "HP puts their money where their mouth is."

The progress HP has made in the last year with PartnerOne "is nothing short of amazing," added Rogers. "The changes in PartnerOne, the changes in leadership, the collaboration of the pan-HP [business unit initiative] is more real than it has ever been."

Mike Strohl, CEO of Entisys Solutions, a Concord, Calif.-based HP Platinum partner, said that he also sees HP's PartnerOne program as the No. 1 channel program with a broader and deeper portfolio than Cisco.

"HP is viewed as a more strategic business partner with customers, whereas Cisco has been viewed more overall as a networking partner, if you want to call it that," said Strohl. "It is a different approach just because of the breadth of the [HP] portfolio."

What's more, HP is working closely with partners on the cloud opportunity, making it "easier for us to work with them from a services perspective between the customer and the HP cloud offering overall," said Strohl, referring to HP as a lot more "mature" cloud vendor than Cisco. "HP is already established in this marketplace," he said.

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Cisco Systems surprised partners and customers by announcing its new public cloud offering Monday even before it kicks off its own partner conference later in the day. Cisco said not only is it building out its own public cloud with a big global data center investment but that it is working with cloud services partners around the world including Telstra, Canopy, OnX and distribution giant Ingram Micro.

Cisco did not reveal when its own public cloud offering will be available in the market. HP's massive public cloud went live in beta in May 2012 and went into general availability in August 2012.

Anirudh Shrotriya, managing director of Shro Systems, an India-based HP-exclusive solution provider, said he feels good about his big bet on HP given the breadth and depth of the HP cloud product portfolio. Besides selling HP's full portfolio, including cloud services automation and big data software, Shro Systems has formed a consortium with 40 other India solution providers to build its own public cloud, EffiCloud (Efficient Cloud) based on HP infrastructure.

Shrotriya predicts his business will grow double digits once again this year as a result of the strong HP product portfolio and increasing partner commitment that spans the full product line, including cloud software and services. "For me, HP is the best channel company in the world," he said. "We have partnered with a lot of companies [in the past], but HP is the best."

HP has a hardware, software and services portfolio that is "primed" for the cloud solutions opportunity, said Alison Challman, vice president of marketing and HP brand solutions for $26 billion distribution giant Avnet. "HP has the hardware, software and the services for cloud including the cloud automation software and how that plays a role in the cloud journey," she said.

Solution providers at HP's conference said one of the biggest advantages in the cloud computing war with Cisco is HP's HAVEn big data platform, which is being driven by a wide range of partners. Avnet has already unveiled a HAVEn-based health care analytics solution. Partners said the HAVEn software platform strikes at the heart of Cisco's "Internet of Everything" vision with an ability to monitor structured and unstructured data.

"We have made a lot of investments around HAVEn," said Challman. "The success we are seeing around [HP] Vertica [data analytics] is a huge advantage for HP. It's a powerful platform when you bring all the components together, and certainly an area that partners are wrapping their heads around where they can play."

HAVEn stands for Hadoop, Autonomy, Vertica, Enterprise Security with the lone "n" standing for the large number of hardware/software offerings that can connect into the HP Big Data analytics platform. HP said it already has a portfolio of more than "700 connectors" into the HAVEn platform, which includes HP Autonomy, HP Vertica, HP ArcSight and HP Operations Management.

HP's software portfolio is critical to the cloud opportunity, said Challman. Cloud alone, she said, is "nebulous."