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HP buys 3Com, not Brocade

Although Hewlett-Packard spent $2.7 billion to buy 3Com Wednesday largely to make it more competitive with Cisco on the Ethernet switching front, the deal will also have implications for Cisco’s main storage competitor Brocade.

First, the deal means HP won’t be buying Brocade – at least not any time soon. HP was considered the most likely company to buy Brocade after word leaked that Brocade was looking for a buyer last month. It appears that HP did consider it – HP executive VP Dave Donatelli said on a webcast explaining the 3Com acquisition that HP looked at all networking options – but decided 3Com’s Ethernet switches and routers were a better fit than the products that Brocade picked up from Foundry.

The 3Com acquisition also means HP won’t follow the lead of IBM and Dell and sign an OEM deal with Brocade for its Ethernet switches. With 3Com’s products and its own ProCurve platform, HP should have enough to fill out its Ethernet lineup.

The deal won’t impact Brocade’s core business – selling Fibre Channel switches. With Cisco and Brocade as its only options, HP will likely continue to lean heavily on Brocade for storage connectivity.

Still, the HP-3Com deal is seen as bad news for Brocade. Several Wall Street analysts downgraded its stock price today, and its shares dropped more than a dollar in early trading from Wednesday’s closing price of $9.25.

While talk of Brocade getting acquired has diminished, Wedbush Securities analyst Kaushik Roy raised the possibility that networking vendor Juniper might want Brocade to create “an even more formidable competitor to Cisco.”

“We think that neither Dell nor IBM would be interested in buying Brocade due to Brocade’s OEM model,” Roy wrote today in a note to clients. “Any purchase by one of the server vendors would lead to loss of revenue streams from the other server OEM vendors. We, however, think that Brocade might be a good acquisition target for Juniper.”

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