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HP reaching out for more OpenView VARs

But not too many at once, Canadian software exec says at conference

MIAMI BEACH — Hewlett-Packard will open its arms to more VARs who want to sell its OpenView applications, partners were told here at the company’s annual software forum.

However, the number of successful applicants may be short – which is fine for at least one Canadian reseller.

At a closed-door meeting here this week with its partners that sell the OpenView enterprise management portfolio of applications, executives said they’d like to see more VARs in North America now that CEO Mark Hurd has given the software division aggressive sales targets.

For example, John Moore, regional director of software sales for HP Canada, said his target for this year is a 25 per cent increase in revenue over 2005.

To reach that level “we need help in our implementation partners,” he told reporters Tuesday. “We probably need a variety of partners,” he said, including some who only do licence sales.

However, Moore added that he doesn’t want to see a dramatic expansion of the roughly 10 OpenView partners it has already.

“If I could get five dedicated, well-trained implementation partners across Canada in the next couple of years that would be great,” he said.

News like that would be appreciated by Ian Vaudry, vice-president of sales at HP OpenView partner Strategic Concepts of Mississauga, Ont. , who was worried on Monday when told at the closed-door session the vendor wants more partners in the U.S. However, in an interview later he said it was clarified that the company wants to take it slow.

“We’re still in the early stages” of selling OpenView, he explained, and wants to make sure new VARs have to meet the same certification standards as existing partners.

Long the poor cousin of Hewlett-Packard’s empire behind its profitable printers, servers, PCs and storage, the company’s software division has recently begun getting dressed up with the arrival 100 days ago of Thomas Hogan as its senior vice-president, who had been president and CEO of enterprise content management specialist Vignette.

HP Software, which includes the OpenView line and OpenCall telco products, has shown sudden spunk along with the rest of the company. In the past year the division has been profitable for the first time (making about US$330 million a quarter), in part justifying new CEO Mark Hurd’s demand that Hogan — who joined HP only 100 days ago — aggressively grow revenues. Along with sprightly performance in hardware sales, some analysts think Hewlett Packard Co. will pull in more total revenue this year than rival IBM.

At the conference it announced more additions to the already lengthy OpenView portfolio, which totals some 75 products or modules.

They include DecisionCentre, which can run “what-if” scenarios to help organizations decide how to place IT resources; Application Insight 7.0, for discovering and monitoring applications; and AssetCentre 5.0, which can automate asset management.

All will be available later this year.

Company executives also told customers and partners here that more are coming either through internal development or acquisition.

“We have very aggressive plans to lead this market,” Thomas Hogan, senior vice-president of the division said Tuesday in his keynote address.

“We have the brand, the reach and the financial resources,” he said.

Ross Armstrong, an analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Research at the forum said the new products “seem like a step in the right direction in that they’re fleshing out the OpenView portfolio. But it’s also acknowledging the problem with IT complexity.”

Morgan said customers and VARs should welcome the new products.

DecisionCentre, wholly-developed by HP, will enable CEOs and heads of lines of business see the impact of IT resource trade-offs, he said. Applications Insight, an upgrade from software acquired this year from Perigrine Systems, will give organizations a better map of applications across their networks and how they work with each other, which will aid help desks in troubleshooting, while AssetCentre, also descended from Perigrine, will let IT departments bring solutions to lower the cost of lifecycle management.

All three products give partners new applications to bring to customers as well as integration opportunities, he said.

While word that HP will work slowly to increase the number of its software VARs may please its existing partners, it did make analyst Armstrong wonder if the company is serious about stretching OpenView sales from the enterprise to mid-sized companies. In an interview he noted that server spending among enterprises is dropping, while it’s increasing among medium-sized companies. The OpenView suite has a reputation among mid-size customers of being desirable but expensive, according to Armstrong.

Asked about that, Moore of HP Canada in part acknowledged that by saying the company has to put together business cases for customers and VARs to help them understand the line’s value.

He also noted that many OpenView applications are sold as modules that customers can buy as they need and can afford. “You can pick and chose what’s right for your needs,” he said.