Microsoft, HP Do Right by Partners

By Lawrence Walsh  |  Print this article Print


Desktop-as-a-Service Designed for Any Cloud ? Nutanix Frame

In announcing their massive three-year, $250 million alliance to build optimized data center systems, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard went to great pains to make their respective and mutual partner communities an integral part of their go-to-market strategy. It’s a stark contrast to other vendors’ approach.

In the closing months of 2009, as the world tried to close the books on a terrible year, Cisco Systems tapped Avnet and WestCon to distributed its blade servers and enable resellers to go to market with the foundational building blocks of its Unified Computing Systems. The announcement was the culmination of nearly nine-months of waiting for a tangible, widespread channel development to come from Cisco’s "Project California."

"With the incredible amount of convergence taking place within the data center, it is critical to provide customers with complete solutions designed to address their business challenges," Jeff Bawol, president of Avnet Technology Solutions for the Americas, said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard announced a three-year, $250 million collaborative alliance to develop new, highly integrated and optimized data center solutions came with promises of new products and opportunities for partners as well as offerings that bread-and-butter resellers could take to market today. While the Microsoft-HP initiative is applicable to environments ranging from the Global 2000, the optimal market target is organizations with 50 to 1,000 seats.

"We’re not going to create things that have inherit value, but build a platform that partner can add value to," Ross Brown, Microsoft’s vice president of solutions partners, told Channel Insider this week.

The two initiatives are not only contrasting approaches to winning the battle for the future data center and cloud computing infrastructure, but a polar opposite approach to engaging reseller partners in going to market with emerging technologies and strategies. Understanding these two initiatives – the inevitable number of similar initiatives by other vendors yet to come – is critical for VARs and solution providers in knowing their place in the channel of the future.

Cisco’s Project California was perhaps the worst kept secret in IT history. For months leading up to the announcement, the industry buzzed with speculation and rumors about Cisco’s server market entry to compete directly against longtime allies Dell, IBM, Sun Microsystems and HP. When Cisco took the wraps off its plans last March, it was explicit in its intent to go to market direct with its virtualized servers and converged data center strategy, develop strategic working relationships with a handful of large integrators and, over time, push the technology and product offerings out to rank and file reseller partners.

Cisco did work with partners such as Dimension Data, Tata Consultancy Services, World Wide Technology, Computer Science Corp., in fleshing out the USC strategy and bringing the concept to early adopting enterprise. But Cisco was light on details for what the products actually looked like and how the strategy would manifest itself through the rest of its broad channels. In response to cries from smaller partners and – as some speculated – the need to push new products to offset declining sales in core infrastructure gear, Cisco announced at its partner conference last June that it would release conventional rack-mount servers.

From the state, the Cisco data center strategy was slow in unfolding to its partners. And Cisco can’t be faulted for this build up since its UCS strategy is based in complexity – pulling together numerous hardware, software and services components from multiple vendors is no easy matter. The Microsoft-HP deal, however, is based entirely in simplicity and, conversely, leverages the two vendor’s vast partner communities out of the gate.

First, let’s clarify what the Microsoft-HP initiative is really about.

Lawrence Walsh Lawrence Walsh is editor of Baseline magazine, overseeing print and online editorial content and the strategic direction of the publication. He is also a regular columnist for Ziff Davis Enterprise's Channel Insider. Mr. Walsh is well versed in IT technology and issues, and he is an expert in IT security technologies and policies, managed services, business intelligence software and IT reseller channels. An award-winning journalist, Mr. Walsh has served as editor of CMP Technology's VARBusiness and GovernmentVAR magazines, and TechTarget's Information Security magazine. He has written hundreds of articles, analyses and commentaries on the development of reseller businesses, the IT marketplace and managed services, as well as information security policy, strategy and technology. Prior to his magazine career, Mr. Walsh was a newspaper editor and reporter, having held editorial positions at the Boston Globe, MetroWest Daily News, Brockton Enterprise and Community Newspaper Company.

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