HP points partners towards SMB, services

HP's Sue Barsamian presenting at Varnex.

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ORLANDO – Converged systems and the other related products that fit together into what HP has branded “the new style of IT” may at first blush seem an enterprise opportunity, but the company sees an increasing role for the same concepts in the SMB market, the company’s Enterprise Group channel chief says.

Sue Barsamian, senior vice president of worldwide indirect sales for HP’s Enterprise Group, called SMB is the biggest untapped opportunity for the company’s channel.

“We’re looking very closely at what we do with workload-optimized offerings with our [ISV] partners, and as we come out with those, SMB is always very high on our priority list,” she said in an interview with ChannelBuzz.ca just after her keynote presentation at ’s Varnex Spring conference here.

It’s a story that HP needs its partners to be able to tell. While the vendor speaks in terms of “workload-optimized” systems, what it really means to customers is a system that’s designed to run their key apps (’s Exchange or SQL Server, for example), and is, as Barsamian puts it, “simple and easy, cheap and cheerful.”

“SMB is one of the strongest growth opportunities we have,” she said.

The increasing focus on SMB should resonate well in Canada, truly a nation of small and medium sized businesses. In her presentation, Barsamian suggested some top opportunities for partners to consider – the company’s six FlexBundles around Microsoft offerings, and the combination of HP BladeSystem servers and the company’s OneView management , which she described as a first step for SMBs towards truly converged systems.

Barsamian also held out the company’s services offerings, and its Technology Services division in particular, as a top growth opportunity for partners. Dating back to the introduction of the ServiceOne partner program about 18 months ago, the company has seen a massive uptick in the amount of services business its partners do with it. With the introduction of ServiceOne, HP made it easier for partners to both resell and deliver HP-branded close-to-the-box services, mostly offered under the Care Packs brand. The company also made renewals channel territory for the first time, giving partners more of the lifecycle around the services business.

“That’s fueled this huge wave of services growth through the channel, to the point where TS is looking at the channel as their primary growth engine,” Barsamian said, after noting in her keynote that technical services sold through channel is “by far the fastest growing segment of our services business today.”

With hardware becoming either commoditized (on the low-end) or pre-integrated and bundled (on the high-end), Barsamian suggested that not only will services become more important to solution providers, but the types of services offered will have to change.

“When you look at where the VAR of the future is going, it has to be heavier services,” she said. “IT can’t be about hardware with a bit of attach.”

Partners focused on close to the box integration services, which Barsamian described as “low margin and risky” services offerings, are having some of their value usurped by the pre-integration of systems in a world of converged architecture, and are finding customers correspondingly less willing to pay for those services. But on the side of the services spectrum, Barsamian sees a particularly strong opportunity around helping customers to move towards hybrid environments.

“It’s still close to the box, but it’s more complicated, more interesting, and more margin-rich,” she said.

HP’s convergence story increasingly includes its software business, which is being integrated into the overall program. Barsamian said that integration is coming as a result of the demands of the company’s partners, but that it’s not enough for many of the company partners.

“Of 100 partners I talk to, 100 want to expand their software and services mix,” she said. “We’re incredibly focused on that. We’ve come a long way and it’s pretty compelling today, but we’re not done. It’s a journey.”

The next step, Barsamian said, is to start more tightly aligning its converged infrastructure products with its software holdings. After all, if HP is going to architect hardware and software bundles featuring software from Microsoft, , and others, shouldn’t HP Software be in the mix?

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