ProCurve's Colubris Buy A 'Great Move'

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Solution providers hope that HP ProCurve's acquisition of Colubris Networks can help propel not only ProCurve but themselves into new wireless territory with a more robust set of WLAN offerings.

On Monday, Palo Alto, Calif.-based ProCurve said it plans to acquire Colubris, a Waltham, Mass.-based wireless vendor that offers tools for wireless integrated access, management and security products, along with 802.11n capabilities.

According to Jennifer Jabbusch, network security specialist for Siler City, N.C.-based solution provider Carolina Advanced Digital (CAD), the acquisition was surprising, but could open new wireless doors.

"I'm pleased that ProCurve is trying to add additional components to the product side," she said, noting that ProCurve typically shies away from offering solutions that aren't based on standards, which has held up an 802.11n offering from ProCurve because the latest wireless standard has not yet been ratified.

Chad Williams, public sector manager for Jasper, Ind.-based solution provider Matrix Integration, said ProCurve's addition of 11n to its lineup through acquiring Colubris will add a new competitive edge.

"Anybody who is looking at wireless is talking 11n," he said. "When you're talking wireless, it's definitely in every conversation we're having today."

In the past, Williams said, Matrix ran up against Cisco Systems, Meru Networks and Trapeze Wireless when going after wireless deals, especially in education deployments. ProCurve's previous lack of an 11n offering made closing the deal much more difficult. The Colubris deal will level the playing field.

"Being a ProCurve partner and presenting a ProCurve solution and you don't have 11n, you're dead in the water," he said. This significantly opens up doors and allows us to compete with the wireless leaders."

Jabbusch added that Colubris is pretty widespread in the hospitality and healthcare verticals, areas where ProCurve's networking gear could use a push and areas CAD would be better suited to serve with a stronger wireless portfolio.

ProCurve general manager and senior vice president Marius Haas said integrating Colubris' product suite into ProCurve's will help expand ProCurve's penetration into vertical markets like hospitality, transportation, healthcare, manufacturing, service provider and education, where Colubris has performed well. The Colubris purchase, which also marks the first time ProCurve has acquired a company, will also help ProCurve's enterprise and service provider users and partners broaden the reach and impact of voice, data and multimedia applications.

Haas said the Colubris buy will give ProCurve and its partners a stronger presence in the wireless arena, an area where ProCurve has a solid product offering, but lacked some key elements such as 802.11n.

"It's a technology space we felt we needed to own," he said, adding that "it's a good augmentation to what we had."

For ProCurve's channel partners, the acquisition of a WLAN vendor gives them a broader solution set to create a stronger demand while also giving them reach into a larger market. Colubris, which was founded in 2000, launched its own partner program in May.

"We will be creating demand for them and giving them a broader set of solutions," he said.

Jabbusch agreed.

"This will definitely be a great move and a great way for us to have a strong wireless offering without just key components," she said. "This is a great segue to get into new markets with them."

Williams said the Colubris acquisition is going to project ProCurve to a new level.

"I think ProCurve was heading in this direction already and this helps them leapfrog to where they were going," he said. "This acquisition is going to speed this up for ProCurve and for me."

Jabbusch said ProCurve's pending integration of Colubris' wireless gear into ProCurve's own wired networking tools should also help boost CAD's ability to offer better-rounded wireless security options, which in the past typically covered the wireless side well but weakened when hitting back to the wired said.

"I expect ProCurve will take this product line and add in the wire line security components that other wireless vendors are missing," she said.

The terms of the acquisition were not released, but Haas said it will enhance ProCurve's routing and switching offerings, where ProCurve has found success. Haas added that the acquisition shows that HP believes in ProCurve as a brand and is willing to put investment dollars behind it.

According to research firm the Dell'Oro Group, ProCurve is the world's second-largest enterprise LAN networking vendor behind San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Systems. In the first quarter this year, ProCurve grew worldwide port shipments by 28.4 percent compared to the year before, outpacing the rest of the networking industry, which grew port shipments by 7.82 percent. In North America, ProCurve's port shipments increased by 10.4 percent, while the rest of the market dropped by 11.8 percent, according to Dell'Oro. HP reported $110.4 billion for the fiscal year ending April 30, 2008.

The Colubris purchase is expected to close around Oct. 1, Haas said. Partners and customers should begin seeing product integration between the two company's portfolios in coming months.

Haas also hinted that ProCurve may be investigating future acquisitions, as long as they fall in line with its portfolio.

"We will look at the opportunities out there in the market and understand how it impacts our customers," he said, later adding that ProCurve plans to stay "pretty close to our core competencies."

Haas said the Colubris acquisition should not be seen as ProCurve ignoring its core competencies, which some Cisco channel partners have said the networking behemoth has done by moving beyond its core routing and switching focus and diving into other areas like VoIP and wireless.

"We're staying focused on what we do well," Haas said. "What this does is strengthen the portfolio strategy we already had. We're not moving away from our network edge strategy."

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