HP Storage Channel Program Taking Shape

HP appears ready to direct its enterprise storage customers to work with partners certified under the legacy Compaq Enterprise Storage Solution Specialization (ESSS) program unveiled in January, the solution providers said.

However, some storage solution providers certified under HP's own legacy programs could find it difficult to sell Compaq storage equipment, they said.

Solution providers that want to be certified under the ESSS program must undergo enhanced sales and technical storage training, employ at least one master SAN architect and operate under an approved business plan. It is one of the toughest certifications to gain, say solution providers who have been through the process.

Therefore, ESSS partners said they were pleased to find out from a storage-industry source that HP may be preparing materials for its enterprise storage clients that encourage those accounts to work with solution providers holding the ESSS certification.

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Rich Baldwin, president and CEO of Nth Generation Computing, an ESSS-certified solution provider based in San Diego, said a move by HP to support the ESSS program makes sense given that the vendor in the past month or two told him and his peers that they are HP's premier storage partners. "HP is telling people, 'These are the certified experts in SAN,' " he said.

Non-ESSS HP partners that work with enterprise storage clients should be concerned if HP starts emphasizing the role of ESSS solution providers, said Pat Edwards, vice president of sales at Alliance Technology Group, a Hanover, Md.-based storage specialist.

"I don't want to be thrown away by the roadside," Edwards said. "There are people trying to get HP certification [that may be qualified to do the enterprise storage but don't have the opportunity."

Another solution provider, who asked to remain anonymous, said non-ESSS VARs will be able to work with ESSS-certified partners or sell storage products for an agent fee and receive a commission of up to 10 points without the need to hold the receivables.

The solution provider, who in the past was certified by both HP and Compaq, said it would be unfair for a solution provider certified by HP to be automatically allowed to sell the Compaq products and vice versa. Instead, HP is working on programs to get legacy solution providers for both vendors certified across the entire range of products, he said.