HP Networking Boss: Watch Out Cisco, We're Coming On Strong

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HP Networking grew 12 percent year-over-year in 2011 -- nothing to sniff at in a tailspin year for the world's biggest IT company. But to hear HP Networking's top executive tell it, that growth is only the beginning of what HP hopes to achieve behind networking-centric channel partners this year at it cements its place as a legitimate challenger to Cisco's long-held data networking dominance.

Bethany Mayer, who was formally named senior vice president and general manager, HP Networking, in October after having the role on an interim basis for six months, said partners should expect a greater emphasis this year on partner incentives specific to HP Networking.

She also confirmed what HP Networking's channel managers told CRN in December: that HP Networking's operating budget got a boost for 2012 and that HP's new CEO is a networking advocate.

"I can't confirm the number, but all of the resources I request, I get," Mayer told CRN, discussing HP's 2012 networking budget. "Meg Whitman is absolutely supportive of HP Networking and is a very strong salesperson for HP Networking. She's out there talking a lot about us."

Cisco's challengers are legion, but HP has spent the past year coming on strong as a No. 2, winning influence among national solution providers, especially those that already partner with HP in other areas, such as servers and storage.

HP recently introduced new channel incentives, including new certifications in its PartnerOne program specific to HP Networking, and the renewal of its popular Catalyst for Change promotion for displacing Cisco and other competitive vendors' networking products. The new programs, dubbed Professional Networking and Advanced Networking, combined with various HP incentives can net a partner as much as double the return of what it would get on comparable Cisco deals, according to HP.

The immediate response to the new incentives has been strong, Mayer said, and the number of HP Professional Networking partners has increased 100 percent in the past month as partners who wouldn't have qualified for the $500,000 threshold in the Advanced designation can manage the $100,000 threshold for the Professional designation.

HP is continuing to hire specific to HP Networking, Mayer added, and much of that is channel-facing reps. Mayer also said she plans to focus more on planning with HP Networking partners, with annual goals and sales targets, as well as create more HP Networking-specific events. HP Networking will be a focus at HP's Americas Partner Conference in February as well, she said.

"We will spend more time on promotions with partners and also review how we spend the investments we make with the partners so that we both invest appropriately with them and get the return on investment we anticipate," she said. "It's very logical; it just needs to be executed."

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