Q&A: Chris Johnson, EMEA VP of Storage at HP

We speak to the lead storage executive in Europe at HP's first Global Partner Conference to ask where his firm will take storage in 2012.

After dallying in more consumer spheres than perhaps it should have, HP is driving forward a strategy focusing heavily on IT infrastructure.

Meg Whitman is placing greater emphasis on areas such as storage, rather than getting distracted by the likes of smartphones and tablets.

With this in mind, we spoke to the head of the storage division across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Chris Johnson, to find out how the partner conference has helped him and what we can expect from HP storage this year.

How has the show been for you?

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The show has been great. We obviously had the customer and partner show in Vienna in November which was great and here is the same, just with the partners.

You get extremely good dialogue, you touch everybody, get a great community together in one big hit. We call it speed dating and it works.

But, with this event being just partners, is it a tougher crowd to please?

We are a community together. It is different from customers. There you are trying to build a relationship and build a proposition, whereas HP has a very loyal partner community and it is really that synchronisation of friends together.

You get extremely good dialogue, you touch everybody.

We are here to understand what they need, make them money... it is a very natural relationship, much more so than other companies I have worked at.

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HP just has that scale of channel, that history which runs into decades sometimes. It means getting together to work out how we can be successful together is fun, as well as being really productive.

The major launch this week was in servers and with Project Voyager. How does that affect what you are doing in storage?

Well, our strategy is converged infrastructure, so where we benefit in the market place is that we have market leadership in storage, servers and networking and we engineer that together.

We are striving to be technology leaders, not followers... we are trying to push the boundaries as a market leader should. In storage, for the first time in a long time, we have also got the capability to do that.

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Converged Infrastructure from HP is split into products for traditional datacentres, virtual datacentres and then the cloud. Is the cloud where the growth in sales has been?

It is an interesting space in pure storage terms. I mean, 3PAR forms part of the HP cloud generic strategy. In VirtualSystem terms - HP's cloud in a box offering - this is a very interesting part of the market.

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Other vendors with converged system offerings, typically multi vendor... are focusing on the high end of the market where customers have big teams of server, storage and networking people.

VirtualSystem, we believe, is something that is going to become very strong in the channel for the mid-market. [It's for] those who don't have the time, staff and skills to go through the virtualisation journey and want to go straight to the full cloud system.

Channel partners have all of the skills to sell each part, now they have something new to sell that comes in one box and differentiates from the market.

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