HP Updates Small Business Networking

Wednesday Sep 8th 2010 by Sean Michael Kerner
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Tech giant HP continues its integration and expansion of former 3Com technologies with new Wi-Fi, unified communications and phone handsets for small and midsized companies.

HP is expanding its networking and unified communications (UC) offerings for small and midsized business this week with new technologies built on the company's $2.7 billion acquisition of 3Com earlier this year.

After finalizing its acquisition of 3Com, HP reorganized its combined assets, including its ProCurve networking division, under the name HP Networking. Some of the fruits of that reorganization are on display this week, such as the new HP V-M200 802.11n Wi-Fi Access Point for small businesses.

With support for up to 64 wireless users, the Linux-powered V-M200 fills a space in the combined company's portfolio by targeting the SMB market, which HP had previously not addressed.

"The 64-user limit is a hard limit just to make sure that there is a basic level of service," Mark Hilton, director of product marketing for HP Networking, told InternetNews.com. "But it's just a good addition to our family. It's something that was in development prior to our acquisition of 3Com."

Other features of the V-M200 are designed to appeal to SMBs. With large enterprise deployments, Hilton said there is often a need to deploy a controller along with access points to manage all of the devices, and HP already has controller-based access points as part of its larger enterprise product portfolio.

But the new V-M200 is a "fat" access point -- that is, it's controller-less -- and it can be administered instead through a browser-based configuration utility.

Additionally, while the V-M200 is not intended for always-on mesh deployments common to many enterprises -- in which multiple access points can connect to each other as a way to ensure connectivity -- Hilton noted that the V-M200 can do some level of meshing to reach remote areas without having to run a cable. (Still, HP typically doesn't recommend full-blown meshing since it consumes a lot of an SMB's bandwidth.)

Unified Communications for SMB

For SMBs looking to beef up their VoIP Internet telephony and collaboration tools, HP is also expanding its Unified Communications solution set for SMBs with the new HP VCX9.5 IP Communications systems and HP 3500-series IP Phones.

That's another new direction for HP, Hilton said.

"HP ProCurve was never was in the business of IP telephony in terms of having hardware previous to the 3Com acquisition," he said.

The VCX 9.5 unified communications suite includes an enhanced desktop communicator softphone for enabling click-to-call and presence capabilities, which lets you see when a colleague or contact is online and available to talk. Additionally, Hilton said that the softphone now lets users attach a file during a chat session and supports high-definition video conferencing.

The new 3500-series IP phone, meanwhile, expands on 3Com's previous 3100-series phones by providing users with customizable menus. Hilton noted that with the 3100, users only got paper labels for static menu items.

HP has strategic partnerships with other VoIP and UC vendors, including Avaya, making the new VCX and 3500 series phones competitive with some of their offerings. However, Hilton noted that its new offerings provide a new option for HP's sales channel.

"We don't offer the VCX to everybody," Hilton said. "The channel is really what defines which products will be pushed. We have some channel partners that are certified to sell Avaya and HP Networking. Our VCX partners will typically not have access to the Avaya products, so they'll push the VCX through their sales motions."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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