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Hewlett-Packard executives wasted no time and
few words at its annual partner conference in Las Vegas calling on partners to
rise to the competitive challenges posed by its chief rivals—Cisco Systems and

In an ironic coincidence of scheduling, the HP
and Cisco partner conferences are happening simultaneously. And HP executives
almost gleefully acknowledged that their Cisco counterparts in San
Francisco are extolling their superiority and how they
can beat HP in the field.

HP’s response: Don’t believe it.

“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,” Stephen DeWitt, senior vice president and general
manager of HP’s personal systems group, told 1,300 partners gathered in Las

vs. HP: Choosing the Right IT Certification

Tensions and the growing rivalry between HP and Cisco have been steadily
rising over the last year following Cisco’s intention to develop virtualization
servers and expand its footprint in the data center. Cisco recently cut ties
with HP on product resellers—specifically networking gear—to preserve confidentiality
of its product road maps. And Cisco has expanded its vision to rack-mount
servers and storage (through alliances).

HP, which is roughly three times the size of Cisco in terms of revenue, isn’t
taking the competitive threat of Cisco lightly. Numerous acquisitions—including
the recently closed 3Com acquisition—are designed to bolster and secure its
competitive position against Cisco and other rivals. It’s also announced
several channel enhancements at the partner conference to attack the SMB, health
care and print services marketplace.

“Partner One is the key to bring all this together. As we focus on the data and
improve the process, we’re going to put this all under our Partner One
umbrella. This will be the most significant partner program in the industry,”
said Stephen DiFranco, the newly anointed channel leader for HP Americas.

HP is putting a tremendous emphasis on the SMB and health care markets. By HP’s
own estimates, the U.S. SMB marketplace is roughly $57 billion in annual IT
spending, of which it controls roughly a 20 percent market share. The new SMB
Elite program is designed to give more partners access to special pricing,
market development funds, sales support and leads to capture sales currently
serviced by retail and direct sales by competitors—most notably Dell.

Aside from Cisco, Dell is another prime target for HP’s channel leadership.
Earlier this year, HP opened a new outbound call center in New
Mexico that’s targeting Dell and other SMB accounts
for displacement. The program—which gives customers the option to buy direct
from HP or through partners—is generating leads for partners and stealing share
away from Dell. It’s a growing effort in which DeWitt is bullish.

“We’re making extraordinary investments to knock our friends in Texas
[Dell] off their pedestal and become the No. 1 company in SMB,” DeWitt said.

In the SMB and enterprise markets, 3Com is factoring in heavily in HP’s
counter-competitive and growth strategy. Ann Livermore, executive vice
president of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Business, told partners that 3Com fills
critical gaps in the product portfolio that gives HP the only line that has
infrastructure from the network edge to the data center core.

3Com is also an essential element of HP’s converged infrastructure strategy,
which includes storage, servers, networking gear, management software, and
power and cooling solutions. Livermore
said HP is the only vendor that provides products that addresses all of the
converged data center elements.

“Why we are so uniquely positioned is that we are the only technology company
that has all of these components. It gives us a very strong position,” she

As part of its competitive strike strategy, HP is launching training programs
to get partners that hold Cisco engineering certifications quickly converted to
HP certifications. Additionally, Livermore
said HP will launch marketing and awareness campaigns to ensure potential
customers understand the full breadth of HP product and services capabilities.

“Aggressively cover the market and aggressively not leaving any stone
unturned,” Livermore said.