HPE Launches AI Pilot Program For Partners

HPE Launches AI Pilot Program For Partners

‘We’ve already gone off and started working on (this) with a certain set of partners in regards to our AI and AI offerings, and actually building out practices with them just like we did with GreenLake,’ says HPE Vice President of Worldwide Partner Programs and Operations Jesse Chavez.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is poised to launch a new AI Partner Ready Vantage pilot program with a select group of hand-picked partners that will take the lead on capturing the massive AI market opportunity.

“The challenge that partners have is how do they go from opportunity to reality in AI,” said HPE Worldwide Channel and Ecosystem Leader Simon Ewington in an interview with CRN. “That’s what we are trying to do and how we will differentiate ourselves in the market: helping partners on that journey to first understand where they are today in their AI journey; what are the skills that they have; where do they want to get to and then helping them to build a plan to get there.”

[RELATED: HPE Is The ‘Fries’ To The Nvidia AI ‘Burger:’ Channel Leader Simon Ewington]

HPE is using the same kind of pilot program model it used to pioneer the as-a-service market channel opportunity for partners eight years ago with the Zenith program that led to the HPE GreenLake pay-per-use channel model breakthrough.

At the heart of the pilot program is a new AI technology partner competency for HPE’s Partner Ready Vantage program, which rewards partners for services investments.

HPE also has new competencies that are set to be unveiled in high performance computing, sustainability and sovereignty, which will power the AI partner sales offensive forward.

Selecting Partners With ‘The Right Attributes’

HPE Vice President of Worldwide Partner Programs and Operations Jesse Chavez said the hybrid cloud powerhouse has already begun selecting partners with the “right attributes,” which includes data analytics or data scientist capabilities for the AI pilot program.

“We’ve already gone off and started working on (this) with a certain set of partners in regards to our AI and AI offerings, and actually building out practices with them just like we did with GreenLake,” said Chavez.

HPE is also building out an AI workshop for partners. That is similar to a workshop model it also used with as a service with GreenLake, providing partners with business outcome-based sales training to drive the as-a-service transformation.

Given all that HPE learned with the as-a-service “Zenith” pilot program – which lasted two years with about 150 partners – the AI pilot program timeframe will be reduced considerably, said Chavez.

“What is going to be different here is that we learned a ton over the course of that two years,” he said. “Because we have learned a lot we believe that we’re going to be able to actually shortcut a lot of the stuff that we were doing and move it a lot quicker than we did before.”

The Partner Ready Vantage AI sales competency is a “natural evolution” of the trailblazing HPE Partner Ready Vantage program, which was officially launched at HPE Discover in 2022, said Ewington.

“We’ve done a really good job with HP Partner Ready Vantage, which now allows us to leverage that experience with AI,” said Ewington.

Key to the HPE Partner Ready Vantage model is opening the door for partners to leverage HPE’s intellectual property to build their own services capabilities around GreenLake and now HPE GreenLake for AI solutions.

“We’ve opened up our kimono,” said Ewington. “We give them access to our IP, our tools, our methodologies, and we’ve said, ‘We want you to grow your services practices!’ And we’ve done that because we genuinely believe that we will be much more attractive as a vendor, as a partner for our channel to work with If we show them we want to grow their services business. And the same applies to AI!”

HPE’s Zenith as-a-service program – which was launched in 2016- gave HPE a big competitive advantage in the as-a-service market race.

HPE, in fact, formally launched its breakthrough GreenLake Flex Capacity pay-per-use model in 2018. That was three years ahead of rival Dell Technologies’ entry into the as-a-service market in 2021.

Erik Krucker, chief technology officer for Comport Consulting Corp, Ramsey, New Jersey, No. 312 on the CRN SP500, which has been doing high performance computing AI solutions for six years, said Comport has already been contacted to participate in the new program.

“HPE is working with partners like us who have the ability to design, deliver and manage these AI systems,” he said. “These are things we have been doing for a long time. This is a natural fit for us! It’s great to see HPE rewarding the investments we have made here. We are excited about bringing the full range of HPE AI solutions to our customers.”

The HPE AI pilot program “lets customers know that they are dealing with partners that are qualified in this AI market and can deliver rock solid AI turnkey solutions,” said Krucker. “There are a lot of different AI workloads out there than just large language models. You have to know how to manage these different types of workloads and the right infrastructure needed.”

Partners: Perfect Timing For Pilot Program

Dan Molina, co-president and chief technology officer of Nth Generation, San Diego, No. 278 on the CRN SP500, said the AI pilot program is another example of HPE “putting its money where its mouth is” to capture the AI market opportunity.

The pilot program couldn’t come at a better time, said Molina, with customers rushing to build out an AI game plan in the wake of the popularity of ChatGPT and large language generative AI models.

“This AI pilot to enable partners to be successful with AI solutions is a winning proposition,” said Molina, who has been working on AI customer projects with Nth customers for the last nine years.” Customers see us as the trusted advisor for AI solutions and implementation. The sooner that we get trained on these AI solutions with HPE the better!”

Molina said among the big benefits of working with HPE on AI solutions is HPE’s razor sharp focus on security, privacy and protecting customer data. “If customers don’t pay attention to security and privacy AI can backfire on them, exposing sensitive information,” he said.

Molina said that the AI opportunity is the biggest that he has seen in his 35 years in information technology. “The AI megatrend is going to be much bigger than any other megatrend I have seen in 30-plus years in the IT world,” he said. “AI is bigger than even the internet which connected us all together or the cloud. The cloud is still evolving but I think that every organization will be dependent one or many more AI applications. The whole ecosystem-compute, storage and networking – is going to be impacted by AI. I see this as much bigger than any megatrend. We are just getting started. It couldn’t be more exciting.”

Customer interest in developing AI solutions has skyrocketed in the last 18 months with the release of ChatGPT and generative AI large language models, said Molina. The “vast majority” of customers are now interested in developing an AI game plan with Nth Generation, up from just a single-digit percentage just two years ago.

“We are talking to many commercial and public sector customers who do not have an idea of how to get started with AI,” he said. “That is why I am so excited about being able to work with HPE to provide the entire AI solution spectrum from AI workshops to providing the right platform to inferencing, training and tuning the models whether it is entry level or more advanced solutions that are highly scalable.”

Pat O’Dell, general manager and managing partner for Clinton, N.J.-based CPP Associates, said he is excited about the opportunity to participate in the HPE AI pilot program.

“We were at the vanguard of making investments in HPE GreenLake that led to us being GreenLake Partner of the Year last year,” he said. “We would love to be part of the pilot program because we know AI is the future and we believe that HPE will have tremendous AI offerings.”

O’Dell praised Ewington and Chavez for leading the AI partner charge. “It’s exciting to see thinking not only about where the puck is but where the puck is going,” he said.

O’Dell said he sees AI solutions as a strong offering in the HPE GreenLake-as-a-service portfolio. “Not every company is going to be able to afford the capital expenditure to invest in AI so having a a very strong op-ex, pay-per-use, as-a-service offering is critical,” he said. “AI solutions – which are unpredictable in growth and could spike up or down – is perfect for GreenLake. Being able to scale and grow quickly, paying only for what you use, is what GreenLake lets you do.”

CPP has already obtained the necessary competencies for Partner Ready Vantage, said O’Dell. “Partner Ready Vantage is doing what a good program should do, setting the bar, measuring and enabling us, providing the incentives for partners to be successful,” he said.

C.R. Howdyshell, CEO of Advizex, a Fulcrum IT Partners company that has made significant AI solution investments and is building out a hybrid AI offensive, said he is “very excited” about the AI pilot program

“We went all in early with HPE GreenLake and are part of that GreenLake success story,” he said. “It’s great to hear that HPE is taking a proven process with proven results and putting it in place again for AI. HPE is absolutely on the right track with this new program. I would expect Advizex to be one of those partners in the pilot program.”

Howdyshell said building AI solutions involves heavy technology and sales skills investment on the part of partners like Advizex. “It’s a lot of work and effort to do AI solutions,” he said. “From a go-to-market perspective it is a continuous investment to drive differentiation with AI solutions. It is not just about infrastructure. It really comes down to the business outcome the customer is looking for with AI. It comes down to vertical market use cases. If you can understand the use cases you have a leg up. Customers need to know the business outcomes they can expect from their AI investment.”

With Fulcrum acquiring AI pioneer Razor, Advizex is taking scalable AI solutions in all its vertical markets, said Howdyshell. Advizex has deep vertical expertise, said Howdyshell, in healthcare, retail, manufacturing, financial and SLED.

“The number one use case we see with Razor is in manufacturing,” he said. In fact, Advizex has scheduled a Hybrid AI for Manufacturing workshop in Cleveland on June 10.

Advizex also recently appointed Steve Kucker, a 26-year sales superstar who has been a vice president and sales manager for the Advizex’s Northeast business, as its first vice president and general manager for high-performance compute and AI.

Ewington, for his part, said HPE’s Partner Ready Vantage has layed the groundwork for HPE’s AI channel offensive.

“We were trailblazers when it came to HPE Partner Ready Vantage, allowing partners to really develop their own services practices, which is where we all know the margin is! (For us) being really the first vendor to do that, I think we’ve done the heavy lifting,” he said.

The opportunity now with AI, said Ewington, is “leveraging” Partner Ready Vantage to drive the AI channel revolution.

“It is all about services and developing services practices around AI,” he said. “And we plan to enable our partners to capitalize on that opportunity, to turn that opportunity into reality!”

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‘We’ve already gone off and started working on (this) with a certain set of partners in regards to our AI and AI offerings, and actually building out practices with them just like we did with GreenLake,’ says HPE Vice President of Worldwide Partner Programs and Operations Jesse Chavez. Hewlett Packard Enterprise is poised to launch…

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