Where Do 3Com Users Go from Here?

FRAMINGHAM (05/01/2000) - The life is finally draining out of the Network World Fusion forum about 3Com Corp. retreating from the enterprise network market, but what a tale it told.

Not surprisingly, customers are shocked, confused and bitter. "I just purchased $150K of Corebuilder 9000's. Now what?" said one user in the Fusion forum.

"With capital budgets set for FY2000 and FY2001, this is going to be a neat trick to switch to another manufacturer."

Most will have to squeeze what they can out of the gear and worry about replacements down the road. As a Fusion reader said: "With our upgrades we are fine for the next two to three years, and warranty and service programs will cover us. However, there are gigabit options we wanted to explore this summer which are now in question. Very frustrating. Interoperability could be a big issue."

There simply isn't any getting around the fact that life is going to get complicated for customers that bought into the 3Com story. And most, it seems, aren't buying 3Com's exit strategy. Asked if they would take 3Com's advice and migrate to Extreme for large-scale LAN switching and Motorola for WAN switching, readers in a Fusion poll gave a resounding "no." Of the 532 people that had participated in the online survey as of April 26, 71 percent said no, 15 percent said yes and the rest said they didn't know yet.

What will they do instead? That's unclear, but Nortel, Hewlett-Packard, Alcatel and others see blood in the water and are circling. Cisco, in fact, has revised the trade-in values spelled out in its Competitive Technology Migration Plan, specifically to lure 3Com customers.

According to Cisco's Web site, the CTMP program offers qualified partners and resellers up to 52 percent off list price. Extreme says it will knock 70 percent off the price of its BlackDiamond broadband chassis for 3Com customers that ordered CoreBuilder 9000 switches in the last year. The Cisco and Extreme programs end Sept. 30.

Cisco is smart to target 3Com's resellers because they are just as miffed as the end users. "This announcement leaves many resellers in legal and financial peril," said one user in the Fusion forum.

Will 3Com find success with its strategy? Not if that success depends in any part on this customer and reseller base, many of which don't want anything more to do with the company.

- John Dix

Editor in chief

jdix@nww.com.

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