3Com Takes On Cisco

3Com, Marlborough, Mass., has been shipping products sourced from the China-based networking vendor while awaiting final regulatory approval for the joint venture, expected to become operational within the next few weeks.

Some 3Com partners said they are already winning deals built on the company's Switch 7700 and expect orders for the just-launched Router 3000 and 5000 families to ramp up this quarter.


Claflin: 'Enterprise market represents future growth opportunity" for 3Com.

Computer Telephony Concepts, for example, completed this month a $600,000, 26-site 3Com NBX IP telephony implementation for the Ohio Education Association, the state's teachers' union. At the heart of the all-3Com solution was a Switch 7700, a Layer 3 modular LAN switch OEMed from Huawei, said John Graven, COO of the Mentor, Ohio-based solution provider. "That would have been a Cisco product in the past."

The joint venture marks 3Com's re-entry into high-end enterprise networking after exiting the market three years ago. "The enterprise market represents the future growth opportunity of the company," said Bruce Claflin, president and CEO of 3Com, during a conference call last month.

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3Com's departure from the enterprise market left a void in its product line that forced some partners to farm out business to solution providers working with competitors' products to deliver complete solutions.

"I sell Cisco products through someone else every day, [but] I will stop that immediately when we get the [3Com routers] in hand," said Michael LeBlanc, president of LeBlanc Communications, a 3Com partner in Trumbull, Conn.

3Com's new offerings are expected to cost about 30 percent less than comparable Cisco products. However, Cisco has vulnerabilities in markets such as IP telephony and security that open doors to alternatives, they said.

"Cisco's core business is pretty stable, but competitors are starting to chip away at the periphery, and that exposes the rest," said Bob Norton, vice president at Select, a Cisco partner in Westwood, Mass.

To be sure, 3Com faces an uphill battle.

"If you're going to sell products because they're cheaper, why wouldn't you sell Adtran or Extreme [Networks], which are way more than 30 percent cheaper and have a better name," said one solution provider who requested anonymity.

Huawei's reputation in the United States has been tarnished by a patent infringement lawsuit, filed by Cisco earlier this year, that has yet to be settled.

Cisco garnered more than 68 percent of the North American LAN switch market through the first half of this year, vs. 3Com's 2 percent share, according to Synergy Research Group.