Separation makes the brand grow stronger

ProCurve Networking will get more market awareness if it splits from "the big mothership" Hewlett-Packard, says its chief technologist.

SINGAPORE--Breaking away from Hewlett-Packard (HP) may help ProCurve score points in terms of brand awareness, says the technology head of the company's networking business.

During a briefing with reporters here last week, Paul Congdon, CTO of ProCurve Networking, said independence from HP would help customers learn more about the company's networking products.

"We've been telling customers about ProCurve," Congdon said, "But, because it's [about] HP's networking business, it's not an interesting story."

"When HP is on the headline, people kind of gloss over. Being shadowed by the big mothership isn't helping our awareness," he added.

As the number two networking specialist--behind Cisco Systems--in the Ethernet LAN market, ProCurve deserves more recognition, Congdon noted, adding that the business unit wants to be the well-known alternative vendor to Cisco in network infrastructure space.

"[Promoting] awareness hasn't really been a strength of HP," he added. "But we are starting to talk about [ourselves], and we just got to do more."

Cangdon said a move by HP's management to spin off ProCurve will not affect its customers. "It might even be better for our awareness," he said.

Speculation has been rife about the likelihood of HP spinning off its networking business. Last August, BusinessWeek cited sources claiming that HP was in advance talks to sell all, or part of, ProCurve to private-equity firms.

While the prospect has not materialized today, there are advantages of such a move. John McHugh, vice president and general manager of ProCurve, said last year that in the past, companies such as IBM have benefited by breaking away from the networking business, leaving it to domain players and market experts. He added that ProCurve as a separate company could foster new relationships with Dell Computer, which might be reluctant to work with HP--one of its key rivals in the PC market.

In turn, industry analysts have also noted that ProCurve, as a direct competitor to Cisco, may affect relationships between other HP business units and Cisco.

However, Congdon said "any credible alternative to Cisco is going to be an opportunity for other [business units] of HP as well," noting that HP's services organization already manages products from Foundry, a high-end network equipment maker.

He added that HP's current dealings with Cisco include the integration of Cisco technology with its products, as well as OEM (original equipment manufacturer) partnerships.

Still, there are advantages to being part of HP. Congdon noted that having access to expertise within the major IT vendor has given him valuable insights on where servers, PCs and storage are heading. "That helps me direct my vision for [ProCurve] products," he said.

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