HP Grabs Sun Exec To Lead Storage, Server Channel Growth

server networking

Randy Seidl joins HP as the company's new senior vice president for the Enterprise Storage, Servers and Networking global business unit as HP and IBM are fighting to grab Sun customers and channel partners before Oracle finally closes its acquisition of Sun.

Taking over from Seidl at Sun is Anthony Robbins, vice president of North Americas sales region and Sun Federal.

Oracle in April said it plans to acquire Sun in a $7.4 billion deal, announced shortly after an earlier bid by IBM to acquire Sun fell through.

While the acquisition has been cleared in terms of antitrust concerns in the U.S., it is still on hold because of antitrust concerns by the European Union.

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Seidl, who most recently served as senior vice president of Sun's North America Region Global Sales and Services organization, said the move to HP means a combination of growth opportunities and stability.

"HP as a company is a great product, portfolio and financial company," he said. "I was with StorageTek, which was bought by Sun. Now Sun is being bought by Oracle. HP probably won't get bought."

Seidl also cited the opportunity to work with his former colleague Dave Donatelli. Seidl in his new position reports to Donatelli. After losing several top executives to EMC, Hewlett-Packard in late April said that it appointed Donatelli as its executive vice president for Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking, effective May 5.

Two days later, EMC and Donatelli filed suits against each other over noncompete clauses in Donatelli's contract.

Because of the noncompete clauses, HP's storage business has not been a part of Donatelli's portfolio. However, that is expected to change in January, according to HP.

"I worked with Dave Donatelli at EMC when we both had hair," Seidl said. "I have a lot of respect for him."

Seidl also said it is nice to sit at a table with 15 or so executives at HP and see that every one is an "A-level" leader. "Some companies I've worked at have a few A-level players, and several B-level and C-level players," he said.

For HP as a whole, the hiring of Seidl will help the vendor's push to convert Sun customers and partners to HP, said Lorraine Bartlett, vice president of marketing for HP's mission-critical systems.

"The future of Sun is very uncertain with the pending acquisition by Oracle," Bartlett said. "Customers are interested in talking to HP, and HP is very interested in talking to customers about how to bring HP value to them."

HP has programs targeted at both Sun customers and Sun solution providers, Bartlett said. On the channel side, HP's SPARC Genius program provides specific technology that will enable solution providers to help customers migrate from Sun to HP environments, she said.

"In the last three months, there's been a 75 percent increase in partner opportunities where Sun partners are bringing customers to HP," she said.

However, Bartlett declined to discuss how large that base of opportunities is.

Programs to convert rival customers has long been a common tool among all the large system vendors, including HP, IBM, Sun, Dell and so on. However, the gains from such programs have traditionally been relatively low.

Seidl said that a number of Sun partners he worked with while he was at Sun are already HP partners as well, but they weren't always that forthcoming to him in the past.

"Some partners I thought were Sun-only, when I came over here I saw were already working with HP," he said. "So there are fewer Sun-only partners than I realized before."

Sun declined to comment on the hiring of Seidl by HP.

Mark Gonzalez, president of Nth Generation Computing, a San Diego-based solution provider and HP partner, said HP's hiring of Seidl indicates a new aggressiveness by HP and a move by Donatelli to put together his own team.

"Part of what you're starting to see is Donatelli's fingerprint in putting a team together," Gonzalez said. "HP's competition has traditionally been IBM, EMC, Sun and NetApp. Any time you can bring someone on board from a competitor, you get what I call a 'two-for.' Not only do you get talent, but you deprive the competitor of that talent."

Mark Hurd, HP CEO, said in March 2006 that HP wanted to be the largest storage vendor in the world, Gonzalez said.

"Before, he said he wanted HP to be the best storage vendor, but never said biggest," he said. "HP is the biggest vendor in servers, in printers, and with EDS in services. But what's the one big glaring hole at HP? It's storage."

Gonzalez said to expect major changes at HP in January when Donatelli can take over that company's storage portfolio. "That's when things will really begin to get interesting," he said. "This will bring a new level of aggressiveness at HP."

Mark Teter, CTO of Advanced Systems Group, a Denver-based solution provider that also partners with IBM and HP, said recent hires at HP such as Seidl and Donatelli show that HP is building a strong executive team.

"They're building a group of seasoned veterans with server and storage execs," Teter said. "Coming from Sun, Seidl will provide a great opportunity for HP."

Advanced Systems Group was for years a Sun-only vendor, but has in the past couple of years started working with other vendors like IBM and HP.

Teter said that it wasn't a vendor program that got Advanced Systems Group to branch out from its Sun-only focus. "It was customer-driven," he said. "Customers told us, 'I'd like to buy HP from you,' or 'I like working with you guys,' or 'I'm having trouble with HP.'"

Even so, Sun partners are seeing a scramble for their loyalties, Teter said. "Companies like HP are really coming after Sun's installed base," he said. "They're hitting the channel. And they're hitting customers on the direct side as well."