Gunning for Cisco

Marius Haas, senior VP and general manager of HP’s networking business unit has Cisco in his sights

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Gunning for Cisco Marius Haas, senior VP and general manager of HP’s networking business unit.
By  Nithyasree Trivikram Published  January 6, 2011

Investments in its networking division over the past couple of years, including some high-profile acquisitions to bolster its infrastructure portfolio, have seen HP cement its status as the clear number two in the networking market. And the vendor isn’t planning on stopping there, as NME found out when it met exclusively with Marius Haas, senior VP and general manager of HP’s networking business unit on his recent trip to Dubai.

What is the purpose of your visit to Dubai and the Middle East region?

My purpose of the visit is two-fold. Firstly, we had our worldwide business quarterly review, and secondly, we wanted to come here as a worldwide team and meet our customers — 15 of them — over the days of our stay here. We also looked at where we are going to make incremental investments in 2011. So, overall, I would say it is a combination of business planning and investment strategies for next year, as well as customer meetings.

Where does the Middle East region fit into HP Networking’s global strategy?

The Middle East is a very important part of our overall strategy. It is a region that did a phenomenal job last year from a performance standpoint. The customer receptivity to the portfolio has been very good and HP wants to continue its drive on increased coverage, which means both direct and indirect touch with our channel partners. We have an emerging market initiative that we run across HP, and we have reviewed this programme to accelerate the investment in this particular region. Currently, we are presenting our plans to show how increased investment will generate bigger opportunities for HP here.

What is the target market for HP Networking — is it purely the enterprise?

We are targeting both the enterprise and home segments. We want to make sure that we are capable of addressing the needs of all enterprises, be they small companies or large organisations. Our customers include UPS, BMW and Marriot.

Many Middle East countries still lag behind the rest of the world when it comes to access and availability of broadband infrastructure and sufficient networking bandwidth. What sort of implications does that have for your business here?

Well, this generates an opportunity for HP. We are looking at where the opportunities are and what is the best approach to make sure the HP value proposition is well-communicated, either by us directly or through our partners. In certain government municipalities, we are partnering with our channels or channel service providers to cover the market more extensively. Our offerings to customers are from a solutions perspective, which means that it not only looks at networking but also covers storage, server, management and services.

The customer can truly choose to see what needs to be invested for them, and which part of it will be positioned best for them. Based on standards architecture, our solutions can interoperate with any heterogeneous environment in which the investments have already been made. Having intellectual property in all areas, including servers, networking, storage, management and services, means we can help our customers to migrate over time with the flexibility of providing them from a business need as well as an economic need. HP now offers full networking suite capabilities, right from edge to wireless, to office LAN switching, to core switching in data centres.

What trends should network managers and administrators be prepared for in 2011?

It is about how you transition from more maintenance spend to more innovation spend. This means bringing together different silos of the computing infrastructure, such as servers, storage, networking, management and services on to a converged infrastructure that allows the shifting of the ratio more towards innovation spend.

Does HP regard the networking market as a two-horse race between itself and Cisco?

Yes. Customers want choice. Over the last decade, there hasn’t been a lot of choice. HP is positioned as number two in the networking market today. If you look at the enterprise market share, you have Cisco, then HP, and other competitors who are far behind in the networking market chain. We do believe that we are in a very strong position and our value proposition and progress in growth that we see in business is phenomenal. We have seen record growth in Q3.

Is there any conflict between the desire of vendors such as HP to become a sole solution provider and everybody working together to develop interoperability standards?

Having standards-based infrastructure components that fit together in a modular fashion that are optimal for customers is the first job for all at HP. We commit ourselves to provide standards-based architecture with standards-based protocols that drive total interoperability, because at certain times out of 10 one may run into an environment that is a heterogeneous one. So, by default, the answer needs to be that we have to work with others in the market that offer our customers the flexibility to be able to change the components based on who can provide the best technology.

How has the acquisition of 3Com changed HP Networking’s strategy?

Earlier, HP was involved right from wireless to key office switching capabilities. But, what the customers also needed was the capability to address their data centres. The 3Com acquisition filled up HP’s portfolio with end-to-end offerings, which is based on a standards computing and networking interface and architecture. This single pane-of-class management allows for manageability of the network devices based on a single code, thus simplifying it for the customer in a TCO model. We have simplified management of the network and made it more secure with the Tipping Point portfolio around intrusion prevention; and for the TCO it is anywhere between 35% to 65% less than our competitors.

What sort of cloud computing services is HP offering to customers right now?

Some customers want to have a private cloud environment within the firewall community, while others are going into public cloud areas. Customers, typically, say that about 70% of their IT spend are being used to just maintain the environment, while only 30% is spent on innovation. Considering the fact that about 75% of a company’s employee-base is starting to become more globalised and distributed in nature, there is a need to provide them with application availability and application performance as if they are sitting right next to the data centre. To enable this happen, we try to transform this ratio to be closer to 50/50, so that customers can spend more money on innovation and modernise their application portfolio on the best infrastructure possible.

What about from a solutions point of view?

From a solutions perspective, our offerings drive the optimal infrastructure layer at a much lower cost than is done through the virtualisation of the whole networking ecosystem. This results in an infrastructure that operates with much greater efficiencies, such as increased bandwidth and lowered latency. Any customer that deploys this solution has the ability to have more cloud-based services enablement. The Bank of Muscat in Oman, for example, deployed HP’s infrastructure solutions that enabled them to run an Avaya-based VoIP infrastructure on top of it, thus enabling the bank to provide most of its network as a service-type model.

How can HP Networking products help customers to reduce cost?

Cost reduction is one of the core tenets of our value proposition. Our prime objective is to make sure that from a core network switching and routing perspective, we offer our customers the best product at the lowest cost possible. Our distributed and optimised R&D model allows us to build solutions and support them in a truly global environment.

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