HP Hangs Up On 3Com VoIP VARs

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Hewlett-Packard is putting the robust VCX IP voice and telephony product line it gained through its acquisition of 3Com last year into what it is calling "maintenance mode."

Not only that, but the $126 billion computer giant is advising longtime VCX reseller partners to start migrating customers to deeper unified communications platforms from Microsoft and Avaya, even as HP says it will continue to support VCX for the immediate future, CRN has learned.

Frustrated HP-3Com resellers that have sold millions of dollars in IP-PBX VCX voice products by promising their customers a strategic SMB voice platform that was part of HP's long term networking strategy said the shift has left them with mud on their faces and a credibility gap with their customers. Partners said "maintenance mode" effectively means that the product has no viable future as a platform for new accounts.

Some solution providers even fear that customers, particularly those that recently purchased VCX products, will seek refunds or deep discounts to migrate to competing platforms.

“The basic thing is: my customer bought from me an HP VCX [system] and a full line of HP products,” said an HP-3Com solution provider, who asked not to be identified. “I need to take care of that customer. If I sold a customer a half-million dollar system and then I have to tell them it’s getting dumped, does that customer think he’s made a wise purchase? How about a customer who’s in the process of buying it?”

HP, for its part, says it is not killing off the product line. It will continue to sell, support and maintain the seven-year-old product family, whose last major comprehensive upgrade was three years ago, HP executives said.

"The status is changing," said Michael Banic, vice president, marketing for HP Networking. "The next major release, in the first half of the year, is going to kind of shift into maintenance mode to ensure the continued quality of the product."

Some solution providers said that the perceived degree of uncertainty surrounding the product line's longevity is a deal-killer.

Robert Betzel, president of Infinity Network Solutions, an Atlanta-based solution provider, said he had not been given an official answer on the long-term strategic future of VCX by HP. It’s frustrating, Betzel said, because he expected HP to have a clear unified communications roadmap for the next few years.

“We don’t have a very good long-term road map. I’ve been telling HP that over and over, and also that that’s making us and our end users nervous", Betzel said. "Look out there: other manufacturers are beating the war drums. My clients are asking me what’s going on, but they don’t know what to do because HP isn’t saying, ‘Here’s our collective plan.’”

The VCX product family is not the first voice product to be impacted by HP's $2.97 billion acquisition of 3Com. Shortly following the closing of the 3Com deal last April, HP confirmed the end of life for the 3Com NBX family of VoIP systems. The final order date for that product was last July 30, and HP offered to migrate NBX customers to VCX Connect or VCXV7000 systems.

In the NBX end-of-sale announcement, HP had promised that "HP/3Com’s future investments in the voice arena will be centered around a standards-based solution, and as such will be focused on the development and marketing efforts of the award-winning VCX product line.”


NEXT: HP Pushes VCX Partners Toward Avaya, Microsoft

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