Page 3 of 4
The VCX channel is admittedly a small community -- about 50 or so active VCX resellers in the U.S. (and another 400 who focused on 3Com's former NBX voice line). But the acquisition of 3Com signaled to the channel that HP would become an end-to-end networking provider to take on Cisco, with a comparable breadth of data center, networking and infrastructure wares.
VCX's sweet spot remained customers between 100 and 1,000 users, but it could comfortably scale north of 60,000 if needed. Deal sizes varied widely, according to solution providers, but $250,000 sales to midmarket customers weren't far-fetched.
But even as HP Networking has grown and HP has focused on a converged infrastructure strategy, it has instead opted for a strategic partnering strategy for UC, having sold its video telepresence business to Polycom in 2011 and begun phasing out the major 3Com VoIP wares, including the NBX family in 2010 and now the VCX.
Solution providers that support VCX customers said HP is making a big mistake in dumping the platform. To do so means marginalizing a VoIP channel that's already in place and is familiar with the product's engineering, and that, with the corporate support of HP's sales and marketing breadth, could have aggressively pushed it into customer opportunities, they said.
"You've got an established dealer community, and going best-of-breed is not what that community wants," Metropark's Conley said. "VCX is a good product. There's been no R&D in the VCX for years, but I can still compete every day with ShoreTel and beat them."
Most VCX dealers already have moved to focus on other platforms -- "HP essentially killed it when they said [maintenance mode]," Infinity's Betzel said -- but their passion remains. Earlier this year, for example, a website called "Long Live the VCX" went live, promoted by a LinkedIn group formed around HP Networking-related issues.
It includes a prompt for site visitors to leave opinions on the future of the VCX.
"HP the manufacturer of the VCX needs to be enlightened," reads the site's mission statement. "They are ending the life of a great product right before your eyes. Customers, partners, 3rd party vendors WANT this product!!! It is our responsibility to let HP know what a huge mistake this is. We want HP to put its full force behind the VCX and make it the 'Voice' product for the future. We will not accept 3rd party solutions ... we want a product manufactured and supported by HP. By providing a complete portfolio, we can compete and win against other solutions."
Solution providers agreed that HP is missing out on end-to-end networking potential.
"I sell an end-to-end solution. I don't sell best-of-breed," Conley said. "If you buy a phone from me, that phone is going to plug into an HP switch, and into an HP router and, all in all, an HP solution. I do that because I sell a lot of those. I want an HP solution."
Conley said he has enough VCX product to support customers in the short term and is looking at other platform options. KME's Essayian promotes Microsoft Lync and ShoreTel, and sells VoIP platforms such as Digium Switchvox. Infinity's Betzel is now emphasizing Cisco for voice.
"They're making what they think is the best business decision for the company, so I don't fault HP for that," Betzel said. "But we really believe in end-to-end computing, so Cisco is our option. We believe, from SMB to enterprise, that when you can get one manufacturer that has integrated all of the features you need, you get the best outcome. Cisco has that fit."
"If they really knew the direction of VoIP and understood it, they wouldn't be making this decision," said the CEO of an HP solution provider who's been selling 3Com voice systems and their forerunners for decades. "When it comes to voice, especially, customers want one throat to choke. ShoreTel, for example, doesn't own the network, and in that case, if there are problems with a Cisco network or an HP network, ShoreTel can point its finger at that network and say, 'It's not our product; we don't care if it works or not.'"
Most IT buyers prefer end-to-end solutions for the less-hassle factor alone, the solution provider argued. He said he would move his business to Cisco when HP's official VCX announcement comes out.
"Cisco won this market because they could be 'one throat to choke, ' " he said. "HP is making a huge mistake here."