HP Targets IBM, Lenovo With Free Consulting For x86 Customers

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Hewlett-Packard is calling out IBM's "uncertain" x86 server future, offering a free half-day consulting session to qualified customers as rival IBM moves to finalize the sale of its x86 server business to Chinese computer giant Lenovo.

The next shot in HP's Project Smart Choice campaign began Thursday with a full-page ad in The New York Times with a callout asking: "Is your server vendor planning its exit strategy? Then join us to plan your forward strategy.

"With our comprehensive portfolio of solutions and services, HP is ready to be your strategic partner to help you turn uncertainty into opportunity," the ad read.

[Related: HP Unleashes 12 New Enterprise Products At HP Discover]

IBM has been bombarded with questions about its plans to support customers from the moment it announced the proposed $2.3 billion sale of its x86 server business to Lenovo in January.

"If your vendor is IBM, it looks like they're making their move. We invite you to make yours. HP is committed to innovation and has the strength of partners and stability to drive your IT and business forward," HP said in the ad, pointing readers to the offer for a half-day consulting session for qualified customers.

One sign that the HP effort to target the IBM x86 server business is working: Data from market researcher IDC for the first quarter showed HP performing better than IBM in the x86 worldwide server market. IDC said that HP's x86 ProLiant revenue was relatively flat in the first quarter with a 0.4 percent year-over-year increase, while IBM's System x sales in the quarter declined 17.6 percent.

Antonio Neri, senior vice president and general manager for HP Servers and HP Networking, told CRN HP is seeing steady progress in its server sales pipeline as a result of IBM's plan.

"The pipeline win rate has improved over the last several weeks," he said. "Obviously, as more time goes by and the uncertainty continues to be there, customers have a choice to make on which partner they are going to select going forward. I would say we are getting more than our fair share."

HP has estimated it is going after a $4 billion-plus sales opportunity that is being opened up as a result of the IBM-Lenovo deal. What's more, HP has said it has closed more than 600 deals against IBM in the past five months.

HP invited 75 IBM customers to its recent Discover conference in Las Vegas with briefings on HP technology, solutions and services. Neri said three of those customers have already inked deals with HP.

HP also is touting recent wins including a hospitality company that had partnered closely with IBM for many years and a public sector customer in the Middle East where IBM was the incumbent technology provider.

In addition, HP has singled out IBM's top 10 solution provider partners with aggressive incentives to get them to carry HP products and services, said Neri. "We have a series of dedicated PBMs [Partner Business Managers] and incentives we provide them to come to HP," he said.

The free half-day consulting sessions for qualified IBM customers is no small matter given the pressure many enterprise and midmarket companies are facing as they plan their journey to the cloud. "We are doing hundreds of these consulting sessions, whether it is one-on-one or one-to-many," said Neri. "They are all focused on business outcomes. They are focused on the key problems: cloud, big data, security and mobility. They are focused on how to solution-architect the capability you need to address those problems based on the business outcomes you are trying to achieve. There is a consistent methodology for all the practices and, obviously, we customize it based on customer needs."

HP has seen in the past a 50 percent success rate from such consulting sessions, said Neri. He said generally customers start with small purchases and then do more and more business with HP. "You can start with a $50,000 engagement and then at the end walk away selling a $10 million solution." The emphasis is not to sell "hardware but to help customers with the transformation focused on business objectives and business outcomes," said Neri.

Even though HP provides the consulting sessions, Neri stressed that it is working closely with partners. "Ultimately everything we do, whether it is this program or other programs, is with and through our partners," he said. "This is not just about saying, ‘IBM customers, here is HP.' It is, ‘Here is HP and our partners together who can deliver the business outcomes you are looking for. Our success will not be measured only on how many customers we bring in but also how many partners we make successful in this journey."

Mike Strohl, CEO of Entisys Solutions, a Concord, Calif.-based HP Platinum partner, No. 253 on the 2014 Solution Provider 500, said he sees the IBM campaign as just one more sign of HP working hand in hand with partners to create more sales opportunities. "It will be interesting to see how customers respond," he said.

Strohl said HP's Helion OpenStack cloud strategy that does not lock customers into a single-threaded vendor strategy is resonating with customers. "HP's approach is to be open and win based on value and innovation," he said. "That is going to create challenges for vendors trying to box customers in."

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