Networking chief Haas leaving HP

Marius Haas, who led Hewlett-Packard Co.’s networking business through the 3Com acquisition that made it a broader competitor to Cisco Systems, is leaving the company for investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. 

Haas’ last day will be June 1, and a search for his replacement is already under way, HP said in a prepared statement. Bethany Mayer, vice president of worldwide marketing and alliances for Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking, will become the acting head of the networking business. 

Haas’ departure caps a period of significant expansion for the HP Networking Division but also comes after several other management changes that took place in the wake of Leo Apotheker’s arrival as CEO. Last month, HP appointed Martin Homlish, Apotheker’s former colleague at SAP, as executive vice president and chief marketing officer. The company also recently named Thomas Hogan as the sales, marketing and strategy chief for its enterprise business and appointed new regional directors for Asia Pacific, the Americas and EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa). 

The acquisition of 3Com in April 2010 brought HP a wide range of routing, security and other products that could make it an across-the-board rival to Cisco. Haas oversaw that acquisition after being named senior vice president and general manager of the HP Networking Division in 2008. Previously he had been senior vice president, chief strategy officer and global head of corporate mergers and acquisitions for HP from 2003 to 2008. 

However, HP hasn’t yet derived all the advantages it might from that buyout, said Yankee Group analyst Zeus Kerravala.

“I don’t think the acquisition of 3Com … has been as simple as they thought it would be,” Kerravala said. The task of integrating storage specialist 3Par, which was also acquired last year, may be compounding HP’s challenge, he said. 

“They have all the components of being the dominant data center vendor,” with storage, servers, management tools, networking and security, but need to combine it into something more than the sum of its parts, Kerravala said. 

Cisco set the stage for that showdown with its entry into the server business through the Unified Computing System line, followed by its partnerships with EMC and VMware for storage and virtualization. HP and Cisco, along with IBM, Dell and others, now face off as would-be builders of entire data centers. 

Haas’ departure may have been part of an overall move by Apotheker to bring in his own team at HP, Kerravala said. Haas’ replacement at the top of the networking division should be someone who has deep networking expertise, he believes. “Networking is a different discipline to compute. It’s tough for compute vendors to get into networking, and vice versa,” Kerravala said.

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