HP Networking Boss: 3Com Perfect Match To Take On Cisco

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It's been less than three weeks since HP first detailed integration plans for its 3Com acquisition, but its top executives have wasted no time telling HP and 3Com partners exactly how they should be thinking about it. From CEO Mark Hurd on down, HP has spent much of the past two weeks, especially at the HP Americas Partner Conference and Interop, telling partners that there's a new networking sheriff in town and it's time to saddle up.

Of course, being that new sheriff means going toe-to-toe with networking titan Cisco, and in that sense, it's one more front in the increasingly contentious war between HP and Cisco over domination of the data center and share of channel minds and wallets. HP will be tested in the coming months as it attempts to convince skeptics that 3Com was the right acquisition at the right time and that a channel some say was left for dead can find new life as part of the brand new HP Networking group.

VARs are excited at the possibilities. But Cisco isn't exactly a shrinking violet.

Earlier this week, with the partner conference and Interop hype dying down a bit, CRN Networking Editor Chad Berndtson caught up with Marius Haas, senior vice president and general manager of HP Networking, to pick over some lingering acquisition and channel issues. Excerpts of the conversation follow.

You said during your keynote at Interop that HP was "amazingly surprised" by what you found in 3Com's technology. Was it that much of a surprise? The knock on 3Com for years has been great technology and that legacy of R&D, but a channel that fell by the wayside.

We realized we hadn't spent that much time looking at the H3C portfolio as much as we should have from a competitive standpoint when we competed with 3Com. It's a perfect combination for us, and we're committed to educating people on the history of 3Com, how robust it is and how well proven it is in some very competitive markets. A lot of that hadn't really migrated over into the Americas markets and the European markets as of yet, that they were building out an enterprise-class channel program and just embarking on it. It takes time and effort.

Once we looked at it and saw what we had, we were very excited. That portfolio is best in class performance, power management, all at a total cost of ownership model that's very complementary to our open architecture. It works in heterogeneous environments. It was the perfect combination for an enterprise go-to-market standpoint for our thousands and thousands of partners. Having the full portfolio, edge to core, switching to routing to security, and marrying that up to partners with capabilities, it's really what we needed.

What are you hearing from the longtime 3Com partners who don't already partner with HP? The ones I've connected with are excited but still weary after what they've been through with 3Com and they have a lot of questions for HP Networking.

I think there's two stories. One story is the really loyal, long-term 3Com players that migrated toward having more voice-type solutions. They're asking the questions: where are you going with VoIP and how do I fit into the mix. Then there's the new generation of 3Com partners that have invested in higher-end data center type capabilities. We're going to fold both of those types into our overall program, and we will have a new CIE, converged infrastructure elite, category where networking will be a core component but the partners expand beyond networking and do servers and storage and the full spectrum of capabilities. It's very attractive because we're embracing all partners, but unlike other competitors, we have not saturated the market on a coverage side.

How are you bringing 3Com partners into the HP fold?

We're grandfathering them in. We understand they already have certain levels of certifications; you have 3Com, maybe you're already a Cisco gold with x-number of CCIEs. You're not going to start from scratch, you're going to start with the level of investment you've made and make sure you get opportunities in line with what you have. It'll be enticing for them.


NEXT: 3Com's Voice, Security and SMB Products Find New Homes

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