HP ProCurve's wireless networking plans started to look interesting last week - and that's an unusual situation.
For the last several years, the company has doggedly stuck with the dullest Wi-Fi option available, to hold its place at the enterprise Wi-Fi table. In May 2006, it launched a Wi-Fi switch module, based on technology from Symbol, replacing a previous OEM deal for a now-defunct wireless gateway from Vernier.
At the same time, the company has been growing seriously fast in wired Ethernet ports, positioned now at number two to Cisco - depending, as always with market figures, on how you slice the market. In Wi-Fi, it's done nothing special, though HP customers adopting the Symbol module has been enough to let the company register on market share tables.
Now Procurve clearly thinks it's time to take the sector more serioulsy - so much so that it's made its first ever acquisition (as HP ProCurve working on its own), and it's snapped up one of the few remaining independent Wi-Fi switch vendors.
Meru might have been more interesting, with its single-cell technology, but Colubris is going to be quite an asset, and should fit well with HP's approach. The company has genuine expertise in 802.11n - having rejigged its architecture, decentralising it to support faster Wi-Fi speeds, way back in 2005. Since then, Colubris has been working to get into the enterprise Wi-Fi market, while keeping its place in hotspots, hotels and transport applications. Its products have reviewed well.
The acquisition raises one or two side issues, however. Procurve is apparently planning to phase out its Symbol-based kit - just at the moment when Motorola is apparently going to put some marketing muscle into enterprise Wi-Fi. Motorola acquired Symbol in 2006, but it took till 2008 to finally deliver 802.11n. Was that too little, too late for HP? Or did the company have another reason to feel uncomfortable re-selling Motorola kit?
And the whole acquisition strategy is interesting too - it's a change of direction under the new Procurve chief, Marius Haas, who's only been in place since the sudden and unexplained departure of John McHugh in June.
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