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Hard core moves: HP acquires 3Com

HP acquires 3Com to beef up networking.

3Com has had more false starts than any other company in networking. But when HP announced its $2.7 billion 3Com acquisition this fall, it began to look as if there would be a stronger future for the company's portfolio than anyone expected.

Last spring, 3Com extended its H3C line outside the borders of China, where it's in a dead heat competition with Cisco. While most agreed the technology was competitive, many questioned whether 3Com -- which had already folded a networking line in the U.S. and was suffering multiple other reputation problems -- could make it work globally.

But 3Com brings HP the Chinese market, as well as another way to beef up its already scrappy ProCurve networking division in an attempt to offer a complete networking and data center portfolio -- kicking Cisco where it really hurts. Analysts predict that HP will replace its own core switches with 3Com's stronger offering. And 3Com brings sorely needed routers to the HP picture.

The deal is still awaiting regulatory approval, but if it goes through, the 3Com acquisition is expected to make the HP-Cisco battle that much more interesting, while presenting competitors Brocade and Juniper with even more of a challenge.

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This was first published in December 2009

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