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HP, Microsoft Roll Out Joint Flex Bundles for SMB

HP and Microsoft are circling their Frontline Partnership back to the SMB.

The 30-year partnership between the companies ebbs and flows in focus among SMB customers, enterprise customers and technology alliance work.

Last week at the HP Global Partner Conference, a minor announcement about something called "HP SMB Flex-Bundles engineered for Microsoft workloads" signaled that VARs and resellers focused on SMBs are getting some attention again.

"This is the first attempt in many years to go to the SMB market together. We've been focused, as an alliance, in upper midmarket and enterprise," said Stuart Kalman, director of the Microsoft Alliance for the HP Enterprise Group, in an interview this week.

Peter Davidson, senior director of worldwide distribution at Microsoft, said in the same interview that both companies view SMB as a big opportunity right now. "There is a tremendous amount of growth in SMB, and we want to capture it," Davidson said. "In the past, vendors have just looked at SMBs as buying ad hoc products. Now, they need solutions; they need to be global; they need to be able to enter markets more agilely. They're looking at mobile; they're looking at cloud. They're increasingly more tech-savvy. We're acknowledging that."

To meet SMB needs, HP and Microsoft created flexible bundles organized around a few themes. The first three bundles actually rolled out in late January:

  • Virtualization, which includes HP servers and storage with Windows Server software.
  • A "My First Server" bundle, with lower-end server hardware and Windows Server 2012 software.
  • A Microsoft Exchange bundle that comes in three different flavors based on the number of users (generally, HP and Microsoft are defining SMB as up to 1,000 users).

Kalman said HP and Microsoft will roll out two more bundles, one based on SQL Server and one built around Microsoft Lync, in the next quarter. He also characterizes the Flex-Bundles program as an ongoing, iterative process with more bundles to come.

One twist in this latest bundle approach is flexibility, Kalman said. "There's really an opportunity for the customer to be able to purchase a set of hardware solutions as part of this bundle that is not as rigid as [some previous bundles were]," he said. "Today we're saying, here's the bundle as we recommend it, but if your customer needs something unique, and almost all customers do, they can do that within some parameters."

No particular membership will be required for VARs or resellers in the HP PartnerOne program or the Microsoft Partner Network to use the architecture. "We are using our distributors as the aggregators. I would say there's probably an 80-90 percent overlap between the distributors Microsoft and HP have," Davidson said. "The distributors also play a very important role in activating and engaging the resellers."

In addition to materials that distributors are developing on the HP SMB Flex-Bundles, Kalman said HP and Microsoft jointly invested in marketing battlecards and presentations, with some computer-based partner training still on the way. "This is more than just a set of SKUs being put out to distributors," Kalman said.

Posted by Scott Bekker on April 03, 2014 at 10:59 AM