HP: No plans to kill off 3Com products

Execs outline plans to integrate 3Com products into the HP portfolio

HP Monday said it has no plans to kill off any existing HP or 3Com networking products, but did not rule out such a move in the future.

There is "very little product overlap" between the recently merged HP and 3Com, and "anything that's offered today will be offered as long as customers want it and want to buy it," said Dave Donatelli, executive vice president and general manager of HP's enterprise servers, storage and networking division.

Donatelli and fellow HP executives outlined their plans for integrating 3Com products into the HP portfolio in a Webcast for reporters Monday. The HP Networking portfolio "combines HP ProCurve LAN edge products with 3Com's routing, security, data center and enterprise campus core switching solutions" into four broad series of products, dubbed the A Series, E Series, V Series and S Series, HP said.

While various product integrations can be expected in 2010 and beyond, no new technology was announced during Monday's marketing blitz, and Donatelli's statement that there are no plans to eliminate any existing products must be taken with a grain of salt.

Donatelli's statement was "the politically correct answer," says Gartner analyst Mark Fabbi. "Obviously you're not trying to upset the installed base. But when you start looking at the evolution of the portfolios you will start seeing a shift in what they emphasize and a shift in which platforms they are investing in."

For example, 3Com's wireless LAN switches have better management tools and are more integrated with the wired network, and so are likely to get more attention than HP's products, Fabbi says. HP ProCurve products at the edge of the network could be phased out relatively quickly.

The key product for HP's competition against Cisco will be 3Com's H3C S12500 core switch, now just called the A12500, Fabbi says.

HP "phased out their internal development on core switching over a year ago knowing they would make an acquisition," Fabbi says. "The 12500 solved so many of their problems. That was the primary reason for them doing the deal."

The 12500 is part of the newly branded "A Series" of products, along with other H3C switches, routers, wireless controllers, access points and management tools. The A Series will also include some HP ProCurve products, but the ProCurve name is being phased out as part of the rebranding.

While the A Series is geared toward enterprise customers with large and complex deployments, the E and V Series are for small and midsize businesses. The E Series includes a variety of HP and 3Com switches, the 3Com VoIP portfolio and ProCurve wireless access technology, all of which are designed for midsize businesses seeking "reduced complexities with a unified fabric across wired local area networks and wireless local area networks," HP said.

The V Series, for smaller customers, includes the rest of HP's ProCurve switches, an HP wireless router and several 3Com products including wireless firewall routers.

The last product line in the HP/3Com portfolio is the S Series, which is targeted toward security and takes advantage of 3Com's TippingPoint technology, which fixes software defects that threaten network security.

During the Webcast, HP executives also mentioned that they are developing Fibre Channel over Ethernet technology but did not elaborate.

HP boasted that its networking products are based on an open architecture that allows interoperability with multiple vendors and conformance to industry standards. This is not simply marketing fluff, Fabbi says. HP's multi-vendor management tools and focus on interoperability allow customers to use servers, storage and networking equipment from other vendors, including Cisco, he says.

Overall, the HP/3Com deal introduces a new level of competition, giving customers more leverage in negotiations, even if they don't choose to buy HP's technology, Fabbi says.

"This can really return the balance of power back to the buyer as opposed to the seller," Fabbi says. "Enterprises are just foolish if they don't take advantage of this."

Although HP didn't announce any new technology this week, the company will likely build management tools that weave HP and 3Com products together, and improve technology such as the BladeSystem Matrix, a converged software, server, storage and network platform designed to compete against Cisco's Unified Computing System.

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