HP Launches 'Starbucks Card' For Mission Critical Services

The new program, part of a newly established tier in HP's Mission Critical Services, called Proactive Select, sells $10,000 increments of pre-purchased service credits in bundles of 30, 60 and 180, leading one HP premier partner to describe it as a "Starbucks card."

"What this gives you is a Starbucks card for HP Proactive services in your back pocket, so you can talk to a CIO or CEO in simple, straightforward terms," said Paul Shoberg, director of sales at Works Computing, an enterprise-focused solution provider.

"I'd actually argue that this is a stronger sell at the CEO level than the CIO level. It's a way to simplify something technical so they can better put their hands around the investment they're making for their business."

HP Mission Critical Services is a unit within the computing giant's larger HP Services framework that is charged with ensuring customers' IT infrastructures are "always on." It's a task that increasingly involves the proactive application of Information Technology Infrastructure Library-based best-practice service processes and "health checks" of customers' servers, blades and storage devices by HP expert engineers. The new Proactive Select program joins two existing service-level tiers in the Mission Critical Services lineup -- HP Critical Services and HP Proactive 24 Services.

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"The key part of this is that any customer who signs up with HP Mission Critical Services gets assigned an account manager who is an experienced expert on those Mission Critical practices in the data center," said Gerard Nolan, worldwide director of HP Mission Critical Services.

The new Proactive Select tier scales the enterprise-level offerings of the HP Critical and HP Proactive 24 tiers down to the economies of larger SMBs and midmarket firms by tuning HP's service agreements to a price those smaller firms won't balk at, Shoberg said.

"I think the $10,000 entry price is just about right. Let's face it -- HP is a behemoth. I don't think the SMB market or even a couple levels higher ever felt it could cost-effectively engage an organization like that. Especially from a proactive services perspective," he said.

Shoberg said one advantage for channel partners is the ability "to truly provide the credibility that a Mark Hurd brings to the table" when engaging new accounts in what HP clearly believes is a wide-open SMB space for reseller partners.

"I would even argue that HP is dragging their channel kicking and screaming to larger accounts with Proactive Select," he said.

HP Proactive Select customers can buy service credits stand-alone at any time or with new hardware with only one approval and procurement cycle for services delivered over one to five years, according to the company. Technology services on offer include such things as thermal assessments, VMware capacity planning, storage array availability assessments, critical network monitoring and software support.

The Starbucks card-style packaging of the service credits is not the first attempt HP has made at simplifying a product and services offering for SMB-focused partners in this fashion. Last November, HP launched its Total Care Access Card, a discount card solution providers can sell to their customers for $49. The card gives small businesses discounts on software downloads, subscription services and other discounts valued at $1,000, according to HP.