HP Throws Cisco A ProCurve

HP is taking on Cisco Systems with ProCurve, touting the switch line as the best alternative to the market leader. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based vendor is wooing channel partners with promises of better margins on products that it says are easier to deploy and cost less than comparable Cisco offerings.

HP's networking group has dramatically grown its market position, claiming a 3.1 percent share of the LAN switching market in the first quarter of this year, ranking third behind Cisco and Nortel Networks. That compares to an eighth-place 2.3 percent share in the same quarter a year earlier, according to Synergy Research Group.

"My sales of ProCurve are like a stove pipe: straight up," said Pete Busam, vice president and COO of Decisive Business Systems, a solution provider and HP ProCurve Elite partner in Pennsauken, N.J. "Some of my customers, after having tried ProCurve, are moving away from Cisco."

UDTprotia, Miami, has maintained double-digit margins on ProCurve solutions over the past two years, said Henry Fleches, president of the solution provider. However, margins are starting to dip by about 3 percent as more channel partners take on the line, he said.

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Fleches said he hopes HP's new program benefits help Elite partners continue to differentiate themselves and protect margins for partners that find and develop new deals and add the most value for customers.

"We've heard from our partners that they have certain areas of expertise that they want to enhance, and they want us to help with intelligence and tools so they can differentiate themselves," said Louise Bishop, Americas marketing manager for HP's ProCurve business unit.

HP's ProCurve Elite partners now will have the option of participating in Service Advantage, an effort due this fall that will provide technical resources for partners building up their services offerings. Service Advantage will give partners 24x7 access to Level 3 support, exclusive access to a database of technical information on products and services, specialized training and lead generation.

Program members can also resell HP's own professional services offerings, such as its Care Pack warranty and support services, at special discounts. Service Advantage is only available to Elite partners and will require a fee to participate. HP has not yet finalized details of the fee structure, Bishop said.

HP is also adding a new set of Master Accredited System Engineer certifications, which are aimed at helping partners build up their high-end skill sets in areas such as mobility, security, convergence and advanced network management.

In addition, HP is rolling out a library of sales, design and implementation guides exclusively available to its Elite partners. The guides will support partners as they roll out new HP ProCurve solutions being launched this week around access control security, mobility and IP telephony, Bishop said.