3Com and Trapeze: Engaged But Not Married

3Com's partnership with wireless LAN switch startup Trapeze brings the company back into the enterprise.

Dave Molta

September 2, 2004

2 Min Read
Network Computing logo

The latest example of this strategy involves a partnership announcedthis week with Trapeze, which might be thought of as one of the "big 3"wireless LAN switch startups (along with Airespace and Aruba). Althoughdetails are a little sketchy at this point, the partnership extends wellbeyond the type of OEM deals Airespace has forged with Alcatel, NEC andNortel. Yes, 3Com will be reselling a version of Trapeze's MobilityServer and Trapeze access points. But the more strategic element of thisarrangement relates to future joint software development.

In the old days, 3Com probably would have acquired Trapeze. In today'sbusiness environment, however, partnerships are perceived as not onlyless financially risky but also potentially more productive. It hasnever been easy for large corporations to absorb and assimilateinnovative startups, and there's no reason to believe this would havebeen an easy marriage.

The Mobile Observer

Sign up today for our weekly newsletter, providing unique, in-depth coverage of mobile technologies.

A joint development relationship has the potential to yield greaterbenefits than a straight OEM deal while being much less risky than anacquisition. This partnership could pay off for both companies, but itwon't be easy. 3Com brags that it evaluated 32 wireless companies beforedeciding on Trapeze. I'd love to see that list. The market reality isthat there were at most half-a-dozen companies that could have provided3Com with both the technology and the credibility to make a run at theenterprise WLAN market. It's no secret that 3Com was negotiating withAirespace and Aruba. Neither company was interested in the kind ofpartnership 3Com was after. The bottom line is that Trapeze was a betterfit.

3Com has achieved considerable success in the enterprise WLAN market,growing its market for both WLAN NICs (27 percent market share,according to an April study from Synergy Research) and smart accesspoints (at 16.5 percent, a distant second to Cisco's 46.5 percent).Perhaps more significantly, 3Com has considerable mindshare. In a recentreader survey conducted by Network Computing, 3Com was a solidsecond-place to Cisco in reader perceptions of the company best able todeliver enterprise-class WLAN solutions. Despite positive momentum,however, 3Com recognized that it needed a more advanced enterprise WLANsolution to compete.For Trapeze, this news is huge. The company has always had solidtechnology. But after some early missteps, pundits now view it astrailing Airespace and Aruba. A relationship with 3Com gives Trapezesignificant positive momentum, a greatly expanded sales channel and aviable development partner. Trapeze insists that its modular softwarearchitecture will make it relatively easy to port its code to 3Comhardware (APs and switches). That will be the first hurdle. After that,achieving synergy between the companies' respective development groupswill determine the long-term prospects of enhanced VoWLAN, security andremote/branch office connectivity.

-- Dave Molta, [email protected]

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights