HP To Launch Networking-Specific Channel Program

Hewlett Packard is planning a new channel program specifically for its networking solution providers, part of what HP Networking's top executive is calling stepped-up investment by HP toward aggressively growing its networking channel.

"We have some things coming that are going to be very positive for our channel partners," said Bethany Mayer, senior vice president and general manager, HP Networking, in an interview with CRN at Interop New York this week. "We've carved out a segment of [HP channel program] PartnerONE just for HP Networking partners."

Mayer, who was officially named to head HP Networking this week after holding the title on an interim basis since May, declined to offer specific details on the program.

She said, however, that it will roll out in about four months and include training and channel incentives tailored for solution providers that sell HP Networking. It'll be open to all HP partners that sell networking, Mayer said, with a particular emphasis on HP's growing community of networking-only partners.

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"We've spent time looking at how they go to market, how do they position products, what type of customers they should go after," Mayer said. "We have a lot of HP Networking partners that are networking-only and have a very specific focus, so we want to make sure they get all the same advantages we offer in other areas, so that they stay with us and continue to sell networking for HP."

Mayer replaced former HP Networking chief Marius Haas in May. Around that same time, she said, she began meeting with HP Networking partners to hear about what HP could do to build out its networking channel resources.

In recent weeks, Mayer said she has sought to assure HP solution providers that HP Networking's focus won't change even with Meg Whitman's ascent as HP CEO and much upheaval in HP's top executive ranks.

"HP Networking stays exactly the same," Mayer said. "It's very important, and critical to HP. HP wants to continue to be in the world of high-value networking. We believe the industry in networking needs a change, and HP is the company that can do that."

John Convery, executive vice president of vendor relations and marketing at Denali Advanced Integration, a top HP partner based in Redmond, Wash., described HP Networking as among the richest parts of PartnerONE thanks to the level of investment and attention paid by HP to growing it. A number of HP's strategic partners, including Denali, have been informed of Mayer's goals for HP Networking and the partner program, he said.

"I've known Bethany and I'm really pleased to see her take the leadership role permanently on the networking side," Convery said. "They're doing the blocking and tackling here to drive partner behavior."

Convery said HP is continuing to encourage certifications and specific expertise. Denali carries, and is certified on, all of HP's portfolio, from networking to storage to managed print. Denali is an HP Elite Networking Partner and recently hired Brian Feeney, formerly a partner business manager for HP Networking, to run Denali's HP Networking practice.

Networking has been one of HP's most impressive growth stories, Convery said.

"Their guns are loaded, and they're hunting for bear," he said. "They can hold their own now with anybody, including Cisco."

Next: HP A Fiercer Cisco Competitor

Mayer's promotion at HP Networking comes as HP sharpens its attack against networking giant and HP archrival Cisco. HP has claimed its networking products offer as much as twice the performance at far less cost than comparable Cisco products, and it has also touted data from researcher the Dell'Oro Group showing HP making worldwide market share gains in networking at Cisco's expense.

More recently, Cisco has begun firing back at HP and other competitors. In an internal memo circulated to Cisco's global sales force in late September by Cisco's Rob Lloyd, executive vice president, worldwide sales operations, Cisco lays out the case for how HP's PC business spin-off and executive turmoil will harm its other businesses, hamper its channel and weaken its overall brand.

Cisco has also sought to portray HP as competing on price. That's an argument that according to Mayer doesn't hold water.

"It's easy for Cisco to say it's a price discussion," Mayer said. "I don't think it is a price discussion. For the customer, it's an innovation discussion because competition among vendors helps us, the vendors, innovate. Two, it's also a simplification discussion. Our goal is to simplify the network: make that network simpler to manage, with a simpler architecture, have it be more integrated into the world of compute. That's what we're working on."

HP has put a lot of its networking product development behind FlexNetwork, a converged network architecture designed to leverage virtualization, mobility and cloud computing more flexibly and centralize management of data center and networking resources.

"We focus on on open standards, scalability, resiliency, security and consistency," Mayer said. "That's the idea behind the FlexNetwork architecture. I think that's very different. I haven't seen an architecture that has that unifying theme in the industry."

Mayer insists HP's messaging is helping partners win deals against Cisco.

"Frankly, the proof is in the pudding," Mayer said. "We develop products. We think our products are best of breed, best-in-class in the industry. We are making sure we have products that compete really well and win for the partners. With our programs, that differentiation is what we think will win the day with our partners and help them win against our competitors."

Next: HP Turning To Vendor Partner Vendors For Voice, Video

Mayer said HP's data center and campus wireless networking products are growing fastest, and that HP will stay focused on routing and switching. For areas such as video and telephony, HP Networking will favor partnerships with vendors like Polycom, which acquired HP's video business in June , Microsoft and Avaya.

"This is not a de-emphasis at all on video or voice," Mayer said. "We partner for both of those. Those will continue to be partner activities just as they have been. That's been successful for us."

Earlier this year, HP placed the VCX IP voice and telephony system it gained via its acquisition of 3Com into what HP called "maintenance mode" -- a move that angered legacy 3Com and current HP partners loyal to the platform.

Mayer confirmed HP's voice products will be phased out, and that the partnerships with Avaya and Microsoft for voice are HP's choice.

"We will phase out the voice products," she said. "We are fully committed to the partners that we have on the voice side."

"We have some very good synergies between the three or four companies we have as partners," Mayer added. "They are very strong in what they do and those are very specialized technologies that they focus on. Our thought is to partner with them."