CRN: Hi Kevin. Firstly, the number of HP Gold partners has risen since you lowered the revenue requirements in November. Are there now too many?
Kevin Matthews: We have brought on some very specialised partners. If there is a concern that the number of Gold partners has increased from 85 to 141, then you should look at how many partners are in each specialisation. And the rewards are all geared around the specialisations.
In Preferred Partner Programme (PPP) 2011, the emphasis was on driving greater specialisation. Are you planning any tweaks for PPP 2012 [beginning November]?
KM: We are looking at how cloud will affect our resellers and those resellers that are looking to offer cloud proposition themselves.
Whereas a partner used to be a reseller of our product – where they were buying from distribution, wrapping value around it, and invoicing the customer – what they are doing now is buying our product but using it to resell a service. The product doesn't go that extra step to the customer. We are looking at how we can accommodate that approach in a more formal and standardised way. If a partner is offering hosting on HP technology, how can they benefit from account management, rebates and MDF?
You run the enterprise storage, servers and networking (ESSN) channel for HP. What are your priorities for ESSN partners?
KM: This time last year it was about getting that converged infrastructure message out to our channel so there was a big investment in equipping and training the channel, getting partners to sell the Matrix solutions and convergence story, and I think we achieved that.
The two stories you covered recently [HP storage VARs under pressure to develop 3PAR skills and HP looks to go bespoke in UK sales training revamp] are focus areas for me now.
On the HP Networking side, my message to those partners that have sold only servers is a very large proportion of spend is based on networking. If they are not talking to their customers about networking, the chances are another reseller who is networking-focused will be, because the whole convergence thing is happening. Engage with us and the training is there, and the rewards for selling networking as well as ISS are there.
We hear that reservations over HP's EVA storage range have prompted some partners to look at alternative vendors such as HDS and Dell. When will it be refreshed?
KM: EVA is absolutely still core to the family. I can't comment on refresh as I don't know specifically the roadmap. I can't say that partners are moving away from us to alternative vendors – I think a lot of those partners had multi-vendor offering anyway. But I can say that, with the 3PAR acquisition, our portfolio has strengthened so partners that didn't perhaps look at HP for those solutions are coming to us in their droves.
So how is the channel strategy for 3PAR progressing?
KM: 3PAR gives us a great technology designed for what is happening in the market today. The cloud thing is happening: customers are buying it, some of our resellers are offering their own cloud propositions, and 3PAR is the only technology designed to support a cloud environment from the ground up. 3PAR completes our portfolio and opens up conversations with partners that I may have struggled with before.
We wanted to move this quickly so that partners could get compensated on it. The majority of the StorageWorks sales specialist partners are accredited for 3PAR and with this quarter coming up we are definitely seeing a ramping of interest.
Big vendors such as HP and Microsoft have been criticised for making it harder for partners to get certified this year. Are you asking them to commit too much manpower to your brand?
KM: We changed PPP from being revenue only (where partners were saying, "we want to be Gold but we can't deliver the revenue you want"), to a system where to get Gold you need to be specialised. There is still a revenue number but it is smaller and more achievable. Most partners appreciate that having an annual programme sorts the guys that invest from those who don't.
I acknowledge there are some areas we can strive to improve. I am investing in more partner account managers to talk to more of the partners and am looking to invest further in our partner learning and accreditation team. So if some partners need more information and guidance on navigating the programme, there is more resource to do that.
The grey market problem reared its head again last year. How are you protecting authorised partners?
KM: This is something we take very seriously, and we acted on a number of specific cases last year, which I can't reveal because of the terms of agreement we have with them.
We do a lot of work in the brand protection team in HP to act on any bit of information we get. No matter the size of the organisation that has contravened the terms of the contract, if we feel there is enough evidence to fine them or potentially terminate the contract, we will do it. It undermines the ability of partners who are buying through authorised sources to transact and make money.
Perhaps more importantly, the provenance of the origin of that product, if it is not coming from authorised sources, jeopardises the customer. In some cases, we have looked at it through serial number tracking and some products in there appeared to be counterfeit. That's a potentially disastrous scenario for customers running mission-critical environments.
Finally, what do you make of Larry Ellison's claims that HP servers are "slow and expensive"?
KM: There is plenty of rhetoric going around but our focus is on customers and developing the product.
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