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HP DISCOVER — HP Senior Vice President Sue Barsamian has been a visible presence here at HP Discover in Las Vegas, chatting with media and analysts, attending press events and sharing insights via Twitter.
Channel Partners recently caught up with Barsamian for a wide-ranging, one-on-one interview. In the first part of our conversation, she talked about partner programs and company realignment. In part two of our conversation she talks technology — opportunities for partners, in particular.
In this Q&A, Barsamian, who serves as the senior vice president and general manager for Enterprise Group (EG) Worldwide Indirect Sales at HP, zeroes in on four key areas: cloud, mobility, big data and security. These technology categories represent the foundation upon which HP believes the “New Style of IT” will be built. Read for yourself why she is so enthusiastic about the unique set of assets that HP brings to the table in these areas.
Channel Partners: What’s your top priority with partners?
Sue Barsamian: I am focused on getting more of them to play very strongly across our portfolio. As I “lean in” to say “what is your play in hybrid IT?,” I’m trying to help partners understand how they can evolve to a place where they are increasing their services and software mix, where they are playing in the hybrid cloud world, etc. If you think about it, many are starting to buy small data centers in order to provide managed services, which is essentially an extension of hardware maintenance. They are building private clouds and managing hybrid clouds for their customers, and are brokering the resale of public cloud services. So how do you do all of that in a way that doesn’t require partners to show up to 20 different customers with 20 different combinations of hybrid clouds and hybrid IT? At some point they have to place some bets on some platforms, we believe.
We believe that every customer is going to have a different path and journey. As a reseller, if you want to get into that game of helping customers with the hybrid cloud, then you have to have a reference architecture platform that you can bring to bear regardless of the hybrid scenario that the customer wants. Obviously, some customers will have vendor preferences. Some will say “I’m an HP customer” or “I’m an IBM customer” or “I’m a Cisco customer.” That will be more prevalent in traditional IT than in the world of managed services and cloud. As you move into the [latter], the vector point shifts to the cloud. And our objective then is to sell the partner the absolute best portfolio of hardware, software and service-enabled stack that allows them to deliver solutions to customers.
CP: So of all that you have to offer, where should partners focus?
SB: We have incredible assets across everything you need for hybrid IT. This includes cloud, mobility, big data and security. We offer hybrid IT from the device to the data center, and with software assets that go around it and a services program that is incredibly inclusive of partners. This is, arguably, the best set of differentiated assets available. Oh and, not to mention, that includes financing and variable consumption models that make it very easy for customers to get into this in a CapEx-light, pay-as-you-grow model.
CP: When you look at the portfolio, what technology are you guys going to be known for? When you think Microsoft, a picture comes to mind. With Cisco, there’s another picture. Same with IBM. But HP … what is it going to be known for?
SB: Let’s talk about “The New Style of IT.” At the end of the day, our objective is to provide the leading solutions for building cloud, mobility, big data and security solutions. Those are the four solution areas we focus on. To achieve that, we bring three, core category technologies to the table. So that’s assets from a printing and personal systems division; franchises at scale across all aspects of the data center including servers, storage and networking built into a converged infrastructure; and the software assets such as IT management analytics and security needed to do that. From a partner perspective, that’s a lot. If they were 80-90 percent hardware sales and the rest services, which traditionally meant break-fix, we offer an incredible portfolio that they can move to a business that is more 50-50 in terms of product and software services sales, and those services are more what customers value. Think big data, cloud and security.
CP: What percent of your partners play up and down your stack?
SB: The closest adjacencies are cloud and hybrid. As you know in cloud, you go from a traditional on-prem data center to the ability to be able to go out to build converged infrastructure that can burst out to some public cloud. That’s really a cloud-enabled extension of the data center. Most of the resellers are already in that environment, many playing in security and the like. Our objective is to get more of them playing with HP in security because, whereas they may have been in security for years, many of the HP assets have come into the portfolio in the last four to five years. So marrying a base that has been doing security for 10 years but doing it with different brands to our security portfolio is a priority.
As you can imagine, it’s rare that partners play in the data-center environment and not do something in security. There’s a category of resellers, particularly HP resellers, that dealt with our PC and printing division and also the enterprise division. They are prime candidates for our mobility play. This is because they are already doing [work] from the device to the data center. In contrast, you see a number of smaller resellers that are enterprise data center players that don’t have mobility in their portfolio; they are not ideal candidates for our mobility play — it’s just not been a part of their repertoire. We have another category of partners that have been playing a long time with HP on those two motions and they are really great candidates for the mobility play.
And then there’s big data. Let’s face it, this is somewhat new for everybody. And we have great software assets there. With Vertica. With Autonomy. And with the work that we are doing around Hadoop. We have incredible relationships with Microsoft and PDW around SQL, and with SAP around Hana. I think from a big-data perspective, we’ve got an incredible variety. And we are seeing a lot of traditional enterprise data center resellers now getting into big data. Vertica is a great example. We are starting to do more campaigns around Vertica. We are getting a surprising number of leads around that. So now we want to make it easier for partners by putting a reference architecture around [big data]. Let’s not let them stumble as they get into a new category. You want to make sure they can go out supported by data scientists, supported by referenced architectures and converged systems. As people get more into this, you take the guess work out.
Optimizing applications to infrastructure is science, not art. It’s serious stuff. The more we take the guesswork out of that, the more risk we take out of the equation for the customer and the reseller. This is why everyone wants to buy converged these days. You can’t approach every new app deployment as a science project. You can argue that, “Hey, we’ve been deploying Microsoft Exchange for 25 years.” People know how to optimize infrastructure to Microsoft Exchange. But do people know how to do that for most of these big, new data requirements? No. These are new apps. These are new workloads. These are not things where people bring 20 years of optimization skills to the table. What are the I/O characteristics? Where do you throttle? Where do you not throttle? All of those things matter to how the infrastructure performs. This is not all commodity stuff; it really does matter what you put underneath all these apps — to the SLA, to the TCO, etc. We believe that taking some of the guess workout out of implementations, with reference architectures or pre-packaged solutions, is a really important part of our value proposition.
CP: Does software-defined technology threaten HP?
SB: No. It is a disruptive technology and we have always done that to our categories before others could. We were the first with ARM-based servers, for example, even though we had the largest x86-based franchise in the world. But that’s what you do. We were the first out with software-defined networking. Our Moonshot server is a software-defined server. We have a whole portfolio of software defined storage technology. So our software-defined data center on top of a converged infrastructure is a rock-solid strategy and offering today. Layer on top of that or cloud assets, including HP software, and you get a lot of options.
We have a private and hybrid offering. We have a public cloud offering. We have a managed services offering that partners can resell. They can take the cloud system and spin up their own managed service. You can do almost anything in any combination or permutation you want. And our software stack is integrated with VMware. It is integrated with Microsoft, and it’s all built on OpenStack. And we have announced an OpenStack distribution with, if you buy the supported version, indemnification. One of the biggest stumbling blocks you get in open systems is indemnification. So when we looked at it, we decided to offer an OpenStack distribution and indemnification.
CP: Why does the cloud offer so much promise as say, a single app such as big data?
SB: As much as big data holds promise, you have to have a rock solid security strategy. History will show that as exciting as all of this is from a business perspective, it is more complicated not less than the legacy, traditional on-prem world of IT. And in time of complexity, customers always turn to the channel. And we believe that this is one of those times.
**Editor’s Note: Sue Barsamian will be the kickoff keynote speaker at Cloud Partners, Sept. 8-10, in New Orleans.**