Tough Tactics as Cisco, HP Force Partners to Choose Sides

By Jessica Davis Print this article Print


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As Cisco Systems and Hewlett-Packard have ratcheted up their competitive efforts against each other, with HP even scheduling its partner conference in Las Vegas the same week as Cisco's partner summit in San Francisco, channel partners may very well be feeling much of the pain.

Can you be vendor-agnostic and go with the brand the customer wants? Or do you have to choose sides and declare loyalty to either Cisco or HP? The vendors want you to pick sides.

"It's brutal," one channel partner who asked to remain anonymous told me. He described the case of one deal where he went in to deal with a large customer that was looking for a technology refresh of Cisco switches and HP servers, which were the brands the CIO had in place. But HP wouldn't allow the deal to be registered, even after the partner offered the customer a choice of ProCurve switches, which were ultimately rejected by the customer.

The customer wanted Cisco switches. So HP brought in an HP-only partner to bid against the original partner for the whole deal. The HP-only partner lost the deal. And HP lost the deal as well when the original partner ended up selling an alternative server brand to the customer.

And this is just the beginning. At their partner conferences this week, both companies made their cases for their product lines and their pitches to win the hearts of partners.

For instance, Stephen DeWitt, senior vice president of HP's Personal Systems Group, told partners at HP's partner conference: "Our competition in a number of markets is telling its partners how to take us down. They're telling them how they can match our portfolio. They're telling them how they outmatch us in global presence. They're telling them how they outmatch our partners. I don't buy it, I don't believe it. And we're going to fight every day to prove it."

Meanwhile, at Cisco's partner conference, Keith Goodwin, senior vice president of Cisco's Worldwide Partner Organization, told partners: "We know you had a choice this year of partner summits to attend. We appreciate you being here. You obviously made the right choice."

This is what they said publicly. And, again, this is just the beginning. And as that one partner said: "It's brutal."

Have you run into issues, too?

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This article was originally published on 2010-04-30