HPE: Partners have never had the customer visibility we now offer

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HPE has sought to reassure partners of its commitment to the channel as the company makes a significant shift towards emerging technology markets.

Speaking at Discover 2018 in Madrid this week, HPE said that its pivot towards edge computing and AI-based storage markets, both of which the company seeks to become a leader in, is likely to herald major disruption for the channel, but that a strategy was in place to support its partner network.

"It's a hallmark of our company, our commitment to the channel," explained Phil Davis, president of Hybrid IT at HPE. "If you're ever in Palo Alto and you have the chance to see the garage where they founded the company, there's actually a plaque in the kitchen that commemorates our very first sale as a company to the Walt Disney company, and we did that sale through a channel partner.

"For 77 years we've been committed to the channel and have a long legacy, and I don't think there are many companies out there that can say that."

Edge computing is perhaps the company's newest venture, one that it hopes will eventually yield a $100 billion return over time. Its new range of Intelligent Edge products, which includes hardware and software, is likely to attract new customers and will require the channel to adapt its conversations with customers.

"This is a pretty big transformation for the channel," explained Davis. "There's a number of things we're doing. First of all, we realise that this journey will require investment. So we're working with partners that are making that investment and aligning our rebates and compensation model. So better alignment with the incentives.

"We're also making a range of certifications available to our channel partners that want to go that extra step and be certified. We're [also] working on new tools that will help them with their own training and enablement of their teams."

Last year HPE announced its Super Six report, a list of key trends that the company sees as essential for the industry and an explanation of how it will address each one.

"What that does is make it simple, clear and consistent for all channel partners, and in fact, we just updated that Super Six list for our partners last week for this coming year," said Davis. "So it's things like AI, Edge, software-defined infrastructure, consuming everything as a service."

He explained that the idea of everything being consumable as a service is a "very different conversation with the customer than 'how many terabytes do we need?'". As a result, the company has rolled out training programmes for channel partners on how to conduct financial discussions with a CFO to compliment any technology-based conversations they may have with a CTO.

"Over 70% of our business goes through the channel, so it's absolutely crucial that we get this right for not just our partners to be successful but also HPE."

One major push for HPE is an expansion of its AI data centre program, specifically with its InfoSight product. This is the company's management platform that automatically predicts and prevents potential problems across a company's infrastructure, as well as predicting bandwidth, capacity and performance needs. It also provides visibility into a customer's data habits, something which HPE is keen to share with its partners.

"Our channel partners can go away and look at all of their customers' data sets and how their consumption is happening," explained Milan Shetti, GM of HPE Storage. "So anything which we see from InfoSight, the channel partner can also see it. They can see what's happening across their entire install base.

"That's really powerful for the channel partner - [they] have never had the intelligence and visibility across their install base, ever. It's important for our partners to be able to have an intelligent conversation with their customers."

Dale Walker

Dale Walker is the Managing Editor of ITPro, and its sibling sites CloudPro and ChannelPro. Dale has a keen interest in IT regulations, data protection, and cyber security. He spent a number of years reporting for ITPro from numerous domestic and international events, including IBM, Red Hat, Google, and has been a regular reporter for Microsoft's various yearly showcases, including Ignite.