HP Unveils Initiatives For Channel-Only, SMB Storage Sales

Hewlett-Packard this week used its HP Global Partner Conference to reinforce the channel side of its storage business with new services opportunities, the imposition of new channel-only sales rules for some products, and new storage specializations.

The company also used the conference, held this week in Las Vegas, to introduce a new all-SSD storage array.

The moves are a part of a larger strategy aimed at taking advantage of a number of recent storage acquisitions by HP to improve the company's storage footprint in customer data centers, said David Scott, senior vice president and general manager for storage in HP's Enterprise System, Storage, and Networking (ESSN) business.

HP is in the process of implementing a three-part storage strategy, starting with providing customers new storage technology to optimize their current environments, helping them explore a move to a converged server-storage-networking architecture, and integrating those converged infrastructures to customers' cloud and other systems, Scott said.

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"We're bringing out a new design strategy to leverage our industry-standard server platforms to move towards converged management of servers and storage," he said. "It's all about building what's next for customers."

HP's strategy is based on products from three major acquisitions, as well as a self-designed deduplication appliance.

HP in September 2010 acquired 3PAR, a developer of enterprise-class storage arrays featuring such services as clustering, tiered storage, and thin provisioning, which allows applications to be configured with more storage capacity than is physically available.

The company in 2009 acquired IBRIX, a developer of file-serving software that provides data protection, management and availability to scale-out and cloud computing environments.

HP in late 2008 also acquired LeftHand Networks, a developer of virtual iSCSI storage appliances.

The fourth tier is HP's StoreOnce deduplication technology, which it introduced in June of 2010.

Those four product lines have proven big hits for HP, with total revenue for the four up by over 70 percent in 2011 compared to 2010, Scott said.

"Now the focus is on our channel partners and letting them build out their storage business more profitably," he said.

To do so, HP this week unveiled five channel-specific initiatives.

The first is a new ServiceONE offering specifically for storage partners under which solution providers can either resell HP's storage-related services, act as a sub-contractor to HP in delivering storage-related services, or sell and deliver those services under their own logo, said Tom Joyce, vice president of marketing, strategy, and operations for HP storage.

"For us, it broadens our reach to the market," Joyce said. "And it lets partners provide a unique offering. They can customize the offering, monetize it as part of their own business, and do the services under their own brand."

Scott said such services are a way to increase HP's share of the customer wallet with partners who are not yet selling HP storage. "We're giving EMC and NetApp partners incentives to take advantage of our strong storage portfolio," he said.

The second is a new initiative under which 100 percent of all net-new HP storage customers will be fulfilled only by channel partners, Joyce said. Deals with such customers will have to be registered

This initiative holds both for customers who currently do not have an HP relationship as well as those who currently buy HP products and services but who have not purchased HP storage, he said.

Next: More Channel Initiatives, Plus The New P4900 All-SSD Array

The third is a move by HP to move all customer purchases of its LeftHand P4000 product line and its single-node StoreOnce dedupe appliances only through channel partners. This includes sales to any customers except government accounts or accounts which absolutely insist on purchasing direct from HP, Joyce said.

Furthermore, he said, all future business that gets registered by partners will only go through indirect channels, he said. "We can make certain our salespeople, if they come over an opportunity, will take it to their go-to partners in their territory," he said.

The fourth initiative is a new SMB specialization as part of HP's PartnerOne channel program that provides partners the opportunity to get training and incentives to develop the skills to increase their storage business. Joyce said this program will start with HP's EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) channel partners, and will be available in North America sometime in the near future.

The fifth is a new cloud builder specialization for a variety of HP's offerings including storage.

Scott said that HP's solution providers, many of whom have already been selling cloud infrastructures, can now get training and certifications for that part of their business.

"This lets partners become specialists in building out clouds," he said.

HP this week also used the HP Global Partner Conference to introduce the P4900 G2, a new storage array which fits up to 16 400-GB MLC SSDs into a 2-node storage cluster with a maximum capacity of 6.4 TBs. Multiple P4900 G2 systems can be connected together for a maximum of 102.4 TBs of SSD capacity.

Rich Baldwin, CIO and chief strategy officer at Nth Generation Computing, a San Diego-based solution provider and long-time HP partner, said he is not surprised to see HP make channel-exclusive storage plans given that the vendor has already been steadily improving incentives for its direct sales force to work with VARs.

"We're seeing more field engagements where our guys and their guys are going into the field together," Baldwin said. "Right now, we're looking to hire two new people to go after new HP storage accounts."

Baldwin also said that HP's introduction of the P4900 G2 shows that HP understands the importance of all-Flash arrays to the market.

"Everybody seems to be doing that," he said. "Look at IBM and EMC. I've been doing it with XIO. It just makes sense having an all-solid state product for virtualized environments. You've heard of VDI boot storms where everybody logs on to virtual desktops at once and dragging down performance? This takes care of it."