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OpenView Partners Find Little Fault With HP

The HP Software Forum in Montreal was filled with attendees who had no hard feelings about the former OpenView partner.
Picture this: A high-profile technology company hosts an annual software partner convention where its top executives have little or nothing to say about new ideas for expanding the solution provider channel, and outright admit they see no reason to engage the open-source community in development of a Linux play for the company's flagship software management product.

Meanwhile, industry analysts roam the convention halls discussing what an awful partner the company has been, its tendency toward channel conflict with its direct-sales force, and why every pro-channel promise from it must be hedged with a "wait and see."

Partners in attendance are screaming bloody murder for the company to reform itself, right?

Not if you're Hewlett-Packard.

With all of the above taking place, this week's HP Software Forum in Montreal was filled with happy campers who spoke of HP in terms similar to those used by attendee Patrick Hopkins, principal of Virtus Partners Group, an HP partner and systems integrator in East Norriton, Pa.

Hopkins saw nothing wrong with HP as a partner when it came to OpenView. He said HP was always there with proactive technical and service support. He didn't see conflict between Virtus' sales team and HP's direct force. And Hopkins said an absence of Linux in OpenView would likely not affect sales of the management software, even though Virtus already assists certain customers with migration to Linux on critical servers. "I rate HP very highly," he said.

Hopkins was talking about the same HP that attendee Mary Johnston Turner, analyst at Summit Strategies, called on to undergo a "cultural change" in its less-than-stellar partner relationships. The same HP that attendee Richard Ptak of Ptak, Noel & Associates said had to begin to "understand their customers' customers." The same HP that IDC analyst Stephen Elliot, also at the show, said would pick up added channel market share from its deals with Accenture and SAP "by default only." The same HP that "needed more work in addressing Linux with OpenView," Elliot said.

Granted, the HP Software Forum was a software-centric show. And HP did debut a retooled Enterprise Management Services program to provide a means for HP to better facilitate integration of ISV partner products with its own.

But asked to elaborate on further plans regarding HP expanding its touch in the reseller channel, Todd DeLaughter, vice president and general manager of HP OpenView, said, "We don't have any specific details right now to share, but you can expect the ratio of direct and indirect to remain at 50/50."

Asked if HP would follow the likes of Computer Associates International and open-source parts of its flagship management software, sharing intellectual property with the open-source community and growing channel market share via a Linux play, Sandeep Johri, vice president of strategic business planning said, "If a product is succeeding, there is no reason to open-source it."

In light of all this, HP partners attending the conference had little bad to say about the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company.

Jim Copio, sales chief at Whitlock Infrastructure Solutions, a solution provider in South Riding, Va., said HP was an "outstanding" partner when it came to OpenView. "I think some channel programs really stink, but HP has one of the best," he said.

Copio also didn't see channel conflict between HP and Whitlock's sales force. He said that in rare instances where customer projects outweighed Whitlock's resources, HP could be counted on to come in and perform the work with little worry Whitlock wouldn't be compensated for initiating the deal. "They take good care of us," Copio said of such instances.

In regard to channel conflict and deal-registration issues, Andy Hill, vice president of sales and marketing at Network System Architects (NSAI), an IT service management consultancy in Denver, said he had faith in HP. To date, Hill's company has registered six sales leads with HP. And though a formal contract between HP and NSAI outlining the deal-registration relationship does not exist, Hill said HP has never gone over his head to try and close a sales lead provided by NSAI. "It's just a matter of faith," Hill said.

If HP gets a bad rap as a partner, it's probably due to a mind-set still lurking in the competitive, cut-throat world of hardware sales, not software and not OpenView, Hill said. "I've represented HP, Compaq, IBM, you name it. And in hardware, because of falling margins and increased competition, all those guys were trying to find a way to get around the system. But not with OpenView," said Hill. "Some analyst positions result from HP's overall hardware strategy, but here you are dealing with a subset of the overall company, and the OpenView program is the strongest and most well-directed."

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