HP Unveils Technology Roadmap

HP has pulled out all its guns to tell partners it's in the storage business for the long haul.

September 16, 2004

4 Min Read
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HP has pulled out all its guns to tell partners it's in the storage business for the long haul. The company unveiled a roadmap called HP Storage Grid at an event in Houston for partners and customers that consists of plans to release a bevy of new capabilities developed in the company's HP Labs by 2008 that provide a seamless, virtualized repository, allowing individuals to search and access data without regard to where it is stored with a unified management infrastructure.

The event comes just one month after poor execution in HP's server and storage business brought the entire company's third quarter down, and the company's share price with it. HP's storage business has taken a nosedive, in part, due to the flawed implementation of an SAP supply-chain and order-management system, which delayed the shipment of enterprise products by months. HP has also lost share in the midrange to EMC.

Vowing that its missteps will be short-lived, chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina was emphatic about HP's commitment to righting its storage ship. "Our determination to lead in storage is unwavering," Fiorina told the crowd of 1,000 attendees in a keynote address, which was also webcast to partners, customers and analysts. She humbly acknowledged HP's missteps. "We know we have to earn your trust and confidence," she said.

After giving her keynote, Fiorina, along with Jack Novia, the newly promoted senior vice president of HP's Customer Solutions Group in the Americas region, met with 15 of HP's Elite Partners, who sell HP systems exclusively. In that meeting, the focus was on improving communication, growing market share, the creation of demand-generation programs and a commitment to help partners grow their sales and margins, Novia tells VARBusiness.

"It was very proactive," Novia says. "I would say the things Carly and I walked away with from the meeting was we got a good start with our partners. We will absolutely the communication channel."Indeed, changes are sorely needed. Among the biggest conflicts HP partners have with the vendor is a lack of boundaries between its direct field sales organization and its channel partners. For example, with deal registration, it's not unusual for HP's direct sales force to snatch a lead that a partner has registered through the company's deal-registration program.

"These are things that IBM handles better," says Mike Cox, CEO of Logicalis, a Bloomfield, Mich.-based partner of HP, IBM and Sun, among others. Cox was not at the storage conference in Houston.

HP officials say they hear loud and clear what its partners want. "If you look at what our channel partners want from us, they want predictability, they want the right products at the right prices with the right compensation," says Mark Gonzalez, HP's Americas vice president for enterprise storage and server sales. "It isn't rocket science."

Novia pointed out that HP has already brought back technical field sales personnel -- a sore point with partners when the company cut back last year.

Meanwhile, HP is hoping its StorageWorks Grid roadmap will also re-energize partners. The roadmap calls for allowing organizations to build dynamic information services by storing them in what HP calls "smart cells," which form a standard infrastructure that is modular, intelligent and searchable and accessible in real time. Over the next year, HP will extend the StorageWorks Grid with the release of solutions that simplify file sharing, archiving and management. Down the road, HP will offer solutions that support the co-existence of management systems with block-serving smart cells, and integrated heterogeneous array controllers and grid-based management. By 2008, HP will offer a completely unified StorageWorks Grid with what it calls seamless repository virtualization.HP played up its new StorageWorks XP12000 product, launched last week at the unveiling of Hitach Data Systems' TagmaStore Universal Storage Platform, which the two companies' co-developed. Unique to HP in the XP12000 is support for HP's NonStop systems and for clustering with its Unix systems, Gonzalez notes.

The company also unveiled a lower-end version of its StorageWorks Reference Information Storage System (RISS), the archive and retrieval solution for indexing, searching and retrieving information in the StorageWorks Grid. The new 1-TB version sports an entry-level price of about $100,000. Previously, the entry-level was a 4-TB system starting at $450,000, which limited the available market for the solution. Gonzalez says the RISS products are well-suited to partners.

"Our experience is that 25 percent of the sale is actually services," he says. "That represents a significant opportunity to gain margin."

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