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Is 3Com back?

01 Dec 2007

Few vendors come back from the double whammy of disastrous lack of innovation and a period of channel disenfranchisement. Two years ago the name 3Com was synonymous with uninspired products that had the classic “me too” factor and the company’s lack of commitment to the local NZ marketplace. 3Com’s bread and butter products were in the highly contested switching and routing sector, where it was consistently being squeezed between the so-called 800 pound gorilla Cisco and the young whipper snappers like Netgear, D-Link and Allied Telesyn. The company found this to be an uncomfortably unprofitable position, which gave its competitors ammunition to label it unstable. For an IT manager there is little more frightening than backing an unstable vendor, and, however unjustified, the mud stuck. Global market share was negligible and things were looking bleak.

Since then, a number of major plays have turned out for the Marlborough, Massachusetts–based company, most notably its partnership with Huawei (said warrwey) in China. In 2003 Huawei and 3Com jointly formed H3C. The new company, based in Hong Kong, was established to tackle the explosive networking and routing opportunities in China. Three years on in 2006, the partnership was so successful that H3C had become a market share leader in China with over 30% market share in key networking categories. This astounding growth was crystallised when 3Com paid US $822 million for the remaining 49% of the partnership.  The attractiveness to 3Com was easy to identify; H3C could develop products faster and cheaper in China than almost anywhere else on earth. While US-based engineers often earned $250,000 per annum, H3C’s cost per similarly qualified engineer could be as low as $38,000. The executives at 3Com must have been salivating over a cost advantage of this magnitude.

H3C integration

3Com runs H3C as a separate business unit in China, but for our region and the rest of the world it is simply a brand in the 3Com range of products. This isn’t the case when channel partners source products, as Ingram Micro distributes the 3Com branded range, Renaissance was recently appointed to distribute the 3Com H3C product range, and Kaon Technologies continues as distributor for 3Com’s TippingPoint products.

H3C’s 2,000+ research and development engineers in China (and to a much lesser degree in India) have been busy. In four years the product range has grown to include an offering in almost every conceivable networking or security segment. Sadly, a significant number of the products won’t see the light of day outside of China in the foreseeable future. The sticking point here is language - not a great number of network administrators outside of China speak, or more specifically, read Mandarin. This is changing and Bob Dechant, a Senior Vice President at 3Com in the US, sees this lag between Chinese launch and English localisation becoming much shorter over time.

Locally, Renaissance is importing key products within the range, mainly in the switches and advanced networking products, and local options can be found on Renaissance Brands’ online store. And with the soon to be announced addition of a dedicated H3C business development manager at the distributor, help and training is available.

Newly focused partner program

The company also took the opportunity to extend its new Focus Partner Program to Asia Pacific this November. The program has been running successfully in North America and Europe for some time, but was delayed in this region to ensure the H3C products were seamlessly integrated.

A key component of the new program is focusing partners on the following six specialisations: Enterprise, Networking, SMB, Security, VoIP, and Wireless. To prevent partners from having to wade through vast quantities of info on the program’s website, it has been updated with options to customise and filter content and email broadcasts meaning only case studies, product information and releases relevant to each channel partner’s interests are received. The site now has a particularly useful dashboard feature which summarises everything from marketing rebate balances to training and certification reminders.

With this new found focus on partner specialisation comes a plethora of free training resources, some of which must be completed before selling particular products in the 3Com range. For more information speak to your 3Com distributor.