HP claims Cisco 'alternative' mantle

Microsoft alliance, big Interop presence has HP ProCurve itching for a fight

LAS VEGAS -- Emboldened by its extended partnership with Microsoft, HP ProCurve is positioning itself as the clear alternative to Cisco with renewed vigor.

Senior Vice President Marius Haas delivered the opening keynote address at Interop this week, the first time an official from HP or HP ProCurve has done so, Haas said. HP also has one of the largest exhibition booths at the show, housing a full, life-size Halo virtual conferencing room.

Slideshow: Products to be shown at Interop

The opportunity has perhaps never been better for HP ProCurve. The company has been making substantial market share gains in Ethernet switching over the past couple of years to become the No. 2 vendor behind Cisco. At the same time, rivals such as Nortel have been struggling with bankruptcy and restructuring, including engaging in negotiations to sell the company in whole or in parts.

Indeed, observers view HP's $180 million, four-year deal to integrate products with Microsoft for unified communications and collaboration opportunities as a replacement of Nortel and its Innovative Communications Alliance with Microsoft.

Couple these events with a poor economy prompting companies to consider alternatives in an effort to reduce cost, and it's no wonder HP is crowing.

"Users are saying their networks are overly complicated, proprietary, expensive, and they are held hostage with no choices," Haas said during his keynote address. "There's no reason there can't be change driven by industry standards that puts customers back in control. There needs to be a catalyst though, with the willpower to make that change in the industry. HP is going to be that driving force. We will change the game and change the rules."

Haas then noted that HP, in terms of market share, is first in PCs and printers, and second in networking. He noted that HP as a corporation has "fully embraced" its ProCurve networking arm, and that the company has a range of products to address several markets, including expanding its data center offerings. Haas also noted HP ProCurve's launch early this year of the ProCurve ONE program to integrate "best in class" applications on top of a ProCurve network.

One of those partners is Microsoft, with which HP has a 25-year history as a partner. This week's expansion and investment into UC and collaboration ratchets that up -- and has HP ProCurve confident in its prospects.

"That's what's going to change the competitive landscape," Haas said of ProCurve's partnerships and momentum.

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