3Com Targets Enterprise, Cisco With H3C Play

3Com is looking to re-establish the relevance it once had in the enterprise space, bringing its H3C line of gear to the U.S. and launching a new channel program around it.

Along with bringing the H3C name from China to other parts of the world, 3Com is introducing new H3C equipment as it trains its eye on the large enterprise.

According to Saar Gillai, 3Com's senior vice president of worldwide products and solutions, the H3C line will focus on large enterprise and data center deployments, while the 3Com name will remain aimed at the SME and SMB. In addition, 3Com's TippingPoint security arm will maintain its focus on high-end security.

"With what's happening in the networking world, this is the ideal time to do this," Gillai said of the shift. 3Com bought out Huawei for $882 million in 2006, taking over the H3C line, which Gillai said holds a roughly 35 percent networking market share in China, beating out rival Cisco Systems.

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The H3C brand comprises myriad pieces of networking equipment, including wireless access points, data center switches, telephones and security offerings, including VPNs and firewalls.

Gillai said 3Com's focus on H3C will not change the standard 3Com portfolio.

While making H3C equipment available to a wider audience, 3Com is also launching new H3C products, including the H3C S12500, a data center aggregation and core switch that offers a 6.6-Terabit fabric, can transmit 2.2 billion packets per second and offers up to 512 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports and 864 1 Gigabit ports. The H3C S12500 is 3Com's answer to Cisco's Nexus 7000 series. Gillai said the S12500 can offer roughly double the performance and density while consuming half the power of the Nexus 7000. In a typical configuration, the S12500 starts at $60,000. It is expected to ship in July.

3Com Monday also unveiled the H3C Intelligent Management Center, a single pane network management platform for heterogeneous networks, and the S5800 flex-chassis series, a family of six pizza-box-style fixed-configuration 1 Gigabit and 10 Gigabit switches that can be grouped into a single virtual switch to deploy services and applications. The S5800 series switches are designed to be used top-of-rack in a data center or in the core and can support 24 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports or up to 192 ports in a virtual stack, and 80 Gigabit Ethernet ports, or 640 per stack. The S5800 line can also be upgraded to PoE and PoE+, Gillai said. The S5800 line, which ships in July, starts at $6,495. The Intelligent Management Center ships in June and pricing has not been revealed.

Alex Dobson, 3Com's North American vice president and general manager, said 3Com will also launch a separate invitation-only channel program around its H3C gear. The new program won't change 3Com's existing partner programs. Instead, it will offer its own version of a direct-touch program where 3Com goes hand-in-hand with partners to facilitate H3C deals.

"The focus is really on large enterprises," he said. "H3C is outside of the 3Com program; it's not a Platinum level, it's not a specialization."

NEXT: Partners Weigh In

Dobson said the new H3C program will focus on partners that already have resources targeting large enterprise accounts. While he said some existing 3Com partners will join, it is not exclusive to them. The program will be designed around training, service and sales support. It will offer partners access to lead generation, market development funds, training and promotions along with a one-on-one sales to sales engineer ratio.

"Our fundamental go-to-market strategy has not changed," said Dobson. "We're really regaining the intimacy that we lost."

Dobson said the projected revenue requirement for the H3C program is currently $5 million to $10 million annually.

"We're not in a rush to roll this out to hundreds of companies," he said.

Dobson said 3Com's renewed focus on the enterprise is not a last-ditch effort by the Marlborough, Mass.-based company to recapture share after a rocky 2008, which saw 3Com oust global channel chief Nick Tidd and his team in a bid to take a more regional, geography-based channel approach. Shortly after Tidd's departure, a pending merger transaction with investment firm Bain Capital Partners, which many thought would steady 3Com's course, went bust. Later in the year, 3Com president and CEO Edgar Masri was replaced with board member Robert Mao.

3Com hopes H3C will create the spark it needs to capture the enterprise business it lost when the 3Com brand was altered to focus on the SME and SMB spaces, which included 3Com discontinuing its enterprise-focused CoreBuilder switch line in 2000, a move that upset partners and customers.

With the H3C venture, 3Com is rallying around a lower cost of ownership for high-end networking gear, something companies are seeking out during a rough economic patch.

Partners said the reinvention of 3Com is just what the company needs to kick-start sales.

"3Com has an excellent set of enterprise products now," said Don Gulling, president of Verteks Consulting, an Ocala, Fla.-based solution provider. Gulling said 3Com, however, has continually struggled with the perception that the company doesn't serve the enterprise.

"It's a good thing that they're going to reinvigorate their marketing and advertising," Gulling added. "The timing is really good in that sense."

For 3Com's new enterprise attack through H3C to be successful, however, it all depends on execution, Gulling said.

"The challenge isn't the product, the challenge is the awareness," he said. "It always has been."

Glenn Conley, president and CEO of Metropark Communications, a Chicago-based solution provider, agreed.

"They've got to do something," he said. "The 3Com brand won't scale up and the TippingPoint brand won't scale down. We're not able to walk into these big enterprises with the 3Com brand."

While a reinvention with new branding is a risk, Conley said it's necessary for 3Com to compete in an enterprise market dominated by Cisco and other vendors.

"It's a gamble, but they have to do it if they want to compete in the enterprise marketplace," he said. "3Com used to be the big bad boy on the block, and 3Com is a brand that everyone is familiar with. If 3Com is to be successful with this, they must market themselves properly."