HP Ups The Ante In Battle With Cisco

"Partners can register a BCC opportunity in any segment, public or private sector. The party registering can take advantage of our leasing opportunities, go through distribution, all of it -- there really are no constraints on what path to market they use the Business Class tool for," said Tom LaRocca, vice president for marketing and strategy in HP's SPO -- Americas unit.

The new rebate program starts Feb. 1 and to be fair, it involves more than just ProCurve. HP is kicking off the new BCC program with new back-end rebates for reselling business-class storage solutions and ISS servers and blades, as well as for generating ProCurve deals.

But given recent saber-rattling in the data center networking space, the inclusion of HP's networking products seems especially noteworthy.

It's no secret that Hewlett-Packard is preparing for a battle with Cisco. Monday's release of five new ProCurve data center switches and the launch of the ProCurve Open Network Ecosystem (HP ProCurve ONE) is proof positive that HP has the networking infrastructure leader's data center ambitions in its sights.

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It's a clash that's picking up steam. Cisco's push to move from the networking edge and fully into the data center with its AXP application server and proposed blade offerings has the major server vendors taking serious notice. And of all the server makers, HP would seem to be in the best position to take the fight directly to Cisco, because HP has steadily built market share for its ProCurve switches and now ranks second to the networking king.

"The kind of depth and breadth of coverage that we have at HP is something that outweighs anything that has presented itself in the networking space as a true alternative to what Cisco provides," said Marius Haas, general manager of HP ProCurve, announcing HP ProCurve ONE on Monday.

Still, HP's roughly 10 percent share of the networking infrastructure market remains dwarfed by Cisco's 70 percent share. That's a lot of hill to get up and it appears that HP is preparing to leverage its potent distribution channel to start climbing.

"When we've presented this [new program] to the partners, they love it. They want to deliver value-add services. I think we'll be able to get more value-add partners selling more commercial products with BCC," LaRocca said. HP and its partner council developed the BCC rebate structure over the course of three or four months before the computing giant announced it Tuesday, he said.

Partners can register up to 10 qualifying BCC deals -- they have to be validated by HP and can be held by only one partner on the solution sale -- per month for each of the three deal types eligible. Resellers demonstrating value-add on solutions involving one of those three categories -- networking, servers or storage -- can use a new Web browser toolbar developed by HP to determine their BCC rebates at the beginning of the sales cycle, LaRocca said.

Cisco, meanwhile, added three new Nexus data center switches to its stable Tuesday, and promises its own channel a nice chunk of what the company thinks will grow to be a $14 billion data center hardware and services business in a couple of years.