Networking

Four things to watch for in the HP/3Com merger

HP is purchasing 3Com. With every merger comes some customer trepidation about changes that could be made. Scott Lowe lists four items he'll watch during the merger to decide if Procurve continues to be a viable solution.

This morning, HP and 3Com announced that HP will acquire 3Com for about $2.7 billion.  Obviously, with HP's Procurve unit currently the only company other than Cisco to enjoy a spot in Gartner's leadership quadrant for enterprise LAN and 3Com's focus on all things networking, there is quite a bit of overlap between HP's current offerings and those provided by 3Com. At the same time, this acquisition will help HP expand their share of the networking market. But there is a distinct possibility that HP's expansion in enterprise LAN and the resulting product changes that will probably have to take place could change HP's current approach, which have been very customer-friendly, to policies that might not be quite as beneficial to the customer but that would improve the bottom line for HP.

At Westminster College, we're committed HP Procurve customers; we jettisoned our Cisco infrastructure back in the Spring of 2007 and have been extremely happy ever since, both from a functional standpoint as well as from a financial standpoint. Frankly, I'm a pretty big Procurve fan. As far as 3Com is concerned, the company, in my opinion, hasn't exactly made particularly good decisions over the years. Back in 1999, I had just completed the installation of a 3Com CoreBuilder 9000 core switch when 3Com made the surprise announcement that the company was exiting the enterprise networking space. Part of me is happy to see HP acquiring 3Com and I hope that the merger goes smoothly.  There are, however, a few items I'll watch for. Note that the items on my list are considered as an existing HP customer.

  • Continuation of HP's lifetime warranty. From a value perspective, one of the best things about Procurve is the lifetime warranty that accompanies most of their networking equipment. The lifetime warranty is included in the device purchase price and is a true lifetime warranty; it's in force for as long as you own the equipment. No expensive annual contract necessary. As HP's Procurve line grows in popularity, will this lifetime update eventually go away in favor of a more limited warranty?
  • Ability to download free software updates. As is the case with the warranty, HP currently provides software updates free of charge. Other networking companies require customers to have a support contract in place to get software updates. Software updates can extend the life of the equipment by adding capabilities that were not available at the time the equipment was purchased. Like the lifetime warranty, if HP hits critical mass and decides that software updates make a good profit center, customers could lose out.
  • Maintenance of excellent pricing. Frankly, Procurve equipment is priced very well. I won't say it's cheap because it's also of high quality so perhaps a better word is that HP brings a great value to the table. Unfortunately, as companies - and units within companies - grow, sometimes it becomes easier to start charging more. As things stand now, HP is the value proposition when compared with offerings from companies such as Cisco. As the company's networking unit grows and becomes more entrenched in the market, HP may not need to maintain current pricing in order to stay generally competitive.
  • Seamless integration of product lines. Although I'm a fan of HP Procurve, the line is not complete, which is probably why the company made the 3Com acquisition. For example, even though HP offers higher-end networking equipment, some of it is simply rebranded offerings from other companies. With the 3Com acquisition, HP can develop and sell native equipment and fill in the gaps in the Procurve line. Obviously, since HP and 3Com have different lines, there is likely to be a transition period in which customers may need to obtain equipment that might not yet be fully integrated, but I do look forward to quick compatibility issue resolution as well as quick turnaround on bringing 3Com's products under HP's Procurve Manager management umbrella.

As a CIO focused on selecting products that meet both my need and my budget, seeing the results of this merger prior to our next network refresh in 2011/2012 will help to inform us on future direction as it pertains to our infrastructure.  The four items above will play a key part in a decision as to whether or not to continue with Procurve at replacement time.

About

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

9 comments
Pringles86
Pringles86

We have one department in my organization that needs more security than the others so they have all Cisco equipment. Most of it is up for replacement because Cisco won't support it anymore. Is it worth replacing with new Cisco equipment then having to pay the Smartnet on it? Or is the HP stuff just as secure and functional? The rest of the organization uses a mixture, 3COM, HP, even some dlink and netgear unmanaged switches. What do you all think about the HP vs Cisco for a secure environment? Thanks for the help...

Little_Erik
Little_Erik

@Pringles86 HP offers a full array of security features that allows a business to secure their network. I would recommend that you identify your needs in writing and then contact your nearest Procurve Master Partner (used to be Elite but they have since changed their partner program) and ask for a demo of your specific needs and then get a quote. Worst case you will gain more knowledge about the available products. I am not a betting man but I would wager that they would be able to meet your security needs with a price that CISCO could not match in their wildest dreams. Hope that helps.

Pringles86
Pringles86

I think we will be getting the HP switches for sure. I have made a TCO of both and the Smartnet is just too expensive. Thanks for your reply.

Little_Erik
Little_Erik

Your welcome! Be sure to do business with a Procurve Master Partner because they get a bigger discount from Procurve (which allows them to resell it to you at a cheaper price) than the other partner levels and they also have more qualified staff to help you configure your hardware.

Little_Erik
Little_Erik

I have taken both Cisco and ProCurve training and afterwards decided to go with ProCurve Certification for a couple of reasons. 1. They stick to the IEEE standards and definitions, they aren't into creating proprietary protocols. 2. They have a true lifetime warranty, this is something I can stand by as a professional. How can I as a Professional stand by something that the company won't stand by? Ahem Cisco. 3. The only networking gear on the International Space Station, take that Cisco. 4. Free software updates! I hope they maintain what has made them a successful brand if they don't they will stand to lose the support from their Certified Professionals. I wish they would come out with a Cable Modem/4 port gigabit/wireless router, they need to break into the consumer market with the same great products and they could blow away Linksys.

ssampier
ssampier

I haven't had good results with Linksys. Their firmware is too flaky for my taste. Now 3com does have a series of unmanaged switches. These could be rebranded as HP, since 3com name is virtually unknown outside of the industry. Since Logitech bought Lifesize video products, I wonder if Logitech is interested in the SMB network space?

bwendoloski
bwendoloski

HP-Compaq merger... killed a great computer maker and resulted in SO-SO computers. 3COM makes a decent line of network equipment, tho our company has moved away in favor of Cisco which I must say is really decent except for their warranty. Lets hope HP does not do to 3com what they did to Compaq.

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

At my company we're a 100% Procurve shop as far as our data room is concerned. HP can't abandon the business model that made them successful and expect to remain so. The lifetime next day replacement warranty is what sold me on the product and the fact that I had to pay an expensive annual contract with Cisco is one reason I don't even consider them. HP won't survive as a "cheaper Cisco". We need this kind of competition in the networking space because Cisco has had a monopoly for too long--hawking it's over-valued certifications to pump out network engineers only accustomed to configuring and recommending Cisco gear. HP without the lifetime warranty is like Walmart without the low prices. Who the hell would shop there otherwise? I really don't understand the purpose of the 3Com merger other than 3COM's strong Firewall/Security Appliance brand. We were running 3COM OfficeConnect Firewalls for years before I switched to Sonicwalls, but the 3COM hardware was very high quality and reliable. HP's precense in this arena is virtually non-existant. As long as they just slap "Procurve" on the firewalls and call it a day, that might work, but don't touch the switches. The 3COM deal may also be to strenghten the ProCurve brand's consumer market precense much like Cisco did by purchasing LinkSys.

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

I would be incredibly disappointed if Procurve changes what has made them so successful, but I had to believe that their current model is relatively expensive and the cost of the $2.7B merger has to be absorbed somehow. I just hope they find customer-friendly ways to do it.

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