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Can Simon Ewington Make HPE More than Just the 'Weird Uncle' that 'Pisses Off' the Channel?

MSPs wonder why HPE is ignoring them.

Jeff O'Heir

August 30, 2023

6 Min Read
Anyone out there?
Sam72/Shutterstock

One of Simon Ewington’s main jobs as HPE’s new vice president of worldwide channel and partner ecosystems is to build better relationships with MSPs. Ewington and his crew have lots of work to do. They should start by reaching out to MSPs like Bill Bunnell, CEO of Network Builders IT.

Bunnell bled HP Blue. A solution provider and MSP for more than 20 years, he sold HP servers, desktops, laptops — almost anything with the HP logo. He never even had an HP rep. He’d just put his orders through Ingram. That was that. It didn’t matter. He loved the brand, loved the products. But the love stopped a few years back when a slew of product quality issues soured the romance. Like handing over a box of melted chocolates on Valentine’s Day. Today, he’s with Lenovo. Bunnell never heard a peep from HPI or HPE. No overtures, no backdoor marketing, no flowers. Nothing yesterday. Nothing today.

All of that seems strange to him, since Network Builders IT, No. 407 on Channel Futures MSP 501 ranking of the top managed service providers in the world, is the type of MSP Ewington and HPE are looking to love. The MSP’s on track for a $6 million year, focuses on the middle sweet spot of SMB and has a strong focus on manufacturing and other solid industries.

You’d think Network Builders and others like it would be giving HPE fever dreams right now. The good kind.

Ewington-Simon_HPE.jpg

HPE’s Simon Ewington

HPE brass – CEO Antonio Neri; Jesse Chavez, vice president, worldwide partner programs and operations; Ulrich Seibold, vice president, GreenLake partner and service provider sales; and now Ewington — have all told Channel Futures that MSPs like Network Builders are the type of partner they need to deliver their edge, cloud and GreenLake solutions into new markets. They’re who they want populating the new Partner Ready Vantage Program, set to launch Nov. 1. But HPE never shows up on the radar — no proactive reps, no excited account managers, no outreach — for Bunnell and other HPE partners. They hear nothing. Not even crickets. HPE has strong relationships with lots of big enterprise providers. Company execs say they want to build the same with the right MSPs.  Now’s the time. Partners are waiting for the call they say never comes.

The more MSPs you talk to, the more you realize the huge opportunity Ewington and team have sitting in their databases just a touch away. Hell, Bunnell would even welcome some annoying GreenLake marketing collat in his inbox just to make him feel wanted, part of an HPE community. And that’s after the company has stood him up. MSPs might be dancing with others right now, but they’ll swing if the right partner comes along.

“We used to only sell HPE and even then we couldn’t get anyone to really give us any attention,” Bunnell said, when asked what it would take for him to go back to the HPE fold. “Again, it comes back to the commitment. I’m not hearing their stories. No one’s reaching out. It’s like they could care less, even though my business is going along. No one’s ever asked us, ‘Why.’ We’re larger than the average MSP. I think that deserves at least some attention. We get nothing, so I don’t know.”

Brandon Vancleeve, president of Pine Cove Consulting in Bozeman, Montana, would also like a little bit of the love.

Pine Cove, No. 401 on the MSP 501, sells a good number of HPE servers, is getting into more Aruba networking gear and is thinking about taking on the GreenLake platform. Vancleeve’s company has reached a level of maturity where it’s ready to deliver more advanced solutions AND more of his clients are asking about subscription-based models.

“That’s a fundamental shift for us,” he said, “but a shift we need to be looking at.”

Pine Cove still has a strong VAR focus and needs some handholding to get to the next step. Vancleeve would like that hand to be HPE’s. But, so far, the vendor has both of theirs stuffed deep into its pockets.

Vancleeve has never discussed the idea with his HPE account rep. But, then again, his HPE rep isn’t responsive or in the least bit proactive. To MSPs, it seems HPE would rather leave money on the table. They think it’s strange the vendor says it wants to partner with them, help expand their HPE business, yet does nothing to back up the talk.

“Maybe we’re just not on the radar of them knowing we’re interested. Maybe it’s this tricky scenario of how they’re putting their nets out there to find organizations like ours that are ready to entertain this,” Vancleeve said. “So how do they get out in front of us with it? I don’t know. We have the appetite for it. But for this to get legs we’re going to need them to drive the opportunity with us to say, ‘Hey, let’s get out in front of you. Let’s meet with your team because this could be transformative to your business.’ We’d be all ears right now.”

But, to many MSPs, HPE has cotton in theirs.

Val King said HPE is a lot like your weird uncle: Says one thing one minute, does something else the next.  “He’s cool, but then he shows up to the Christmas party drunk and it’s like, ‘What do you do?’” said King, CEO of Whitehat Virtual Technologies, based in Austin, Texas, and No. 425 on the MSP 501.

King, an HPE partner, still sings the praises of HP’s DL380 servers as “bulletproof, great stuff.” But he and other MSPs says HPI’s and HPE’s individual partner programs makes buying product “a pain in the ass and challenging,” and has driven many partners and potential partners away.

“They kind of pissed off the channel to a certain extent,” King said, echoing others. “From this general sentiment, they’re not wedded friends of the channel community.”

He does find GreenLake intriguing, but also mentions DELL APEX and Lenovo TruScale in the same breath. It all comes down to vendor relationships, and the quality of those has has ebbed and flowed since the channel’s birth.

“That pendulum swings back and forth. There’s always a level of mistrust of the channel,” King said. “And I would say that the pendulum for HPE is swinging in the wrong direction right now. They talk a lot about their great partners and everything else. But the SMB MSP, VAR, reseller — I don’t think they’ve got a positive opinion of HPE right now.”

But, after all that, they still want to hear from HPE.

Want to talk to Jeff about HPE or other vendors? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email  or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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About the Author(s)

Jeff O'Heir

Jeff O’Heir is a journalist and editor who has spent much of his career covering the business leaders, issues and trends that define the IT and consumer technology channels. His work in print, online and on stage has showcased, educated and connected small and large solution providers, MSPs, channel pros and vendors. During his career, Jeff has also covered engineering technologies and breakthroughs, crime, politics, food and the arts.

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