Once upon a time, Cisco was above the fray; too good to respond to competitors that publicly attacked and beyond the need to defend its heavy weight champion status. But those days are over.
This week, Cisco made an attempt at kitschy social media marketing with the release of the Juniper Pizza video on YouTube in which a user orders a pizza from Juniper and then waits 18 months for delivery. The video is a jab at Juniper for heavily marketing its QFabric technology for nearly two years without a delivery date. It also cracks on the company for its lack of switching features.
The video is pretty funny (in the context of tech companies trying to be hip). But it also marks a change of behavior for Cisco, which has always responded with the blanket: “Cisco doesn’t comment on competitors’ campaigns” when asked to respond to jabs from competitors such as Nortel, Juniper and HP. Cisco has also made it policy to avoid commenting on competitive product – instead choosing to promote its own.
So why the change for Cisco? Things may be different now that Cisco has lost some of its hold on the Ethernet switching market and Cisco users have said they will consider competitors with lower prices. It has been said numerous times this year that Cisco is finally in a position where it faces real challenges now that HP, Juniper and even Avaya have data center networking stories.
So will getting scrappy help Cisco stay on top? It could. But it also signal that Cisco is desperately seeking a way to stay relevant and ahead of the competition. You be the judge.
Research firm Canalys reports that the enterprise wireless LAN market has grown by 35% due to the influx of wireless-only devices in the workplace. I could report this as good news – and it is for the top five WLAN vendors: Cisco, Meru, Motorola, HP and Aruba. But for network managers the numbers should signal a different message: You’d better shake a leg if you don’t already have a mobility plan in place that entails growing your WLAN to handle the tablet and smart phone storm.
If your mobility plan is centered around halting or even limiting the influx of personal devices on your network, think again. Bring-your-own-device programs are imminent. What’s more, if you believe that the WLAN is a secondary network, built basically to provide Internet access in common spaces, it’s time to rethink your wireless strategy.
The same Canalys report points out that pad shipments will grow to over 113 million in 2015 from 45 million units in 2011, and smart phone shipments will increase to 864 million from 455 million units in the same period. Once these wireless-only devices flood the enterprise, the WLAN will either handle them – or completely melt down.
Building a mobility program goes further than finding the right mobile device management tool. It is just as important to build a secured WLAN with the capacity to handle bandwidth-hungry applications such as video and VoIP. As Jared Griffith, CTO of systems integrator Cinergy explains: “It’s about protecting mission-critical applications. That comes down to good old-fashioned wireless LAN engineering. When I build this network, I have to build it based on the applications that are going to be on the network, not for coverage. If you build a network for coverage and then I add 50 devices to it, it slows the network down, if not crashing it completely.”
What’s your plan?
When HP announced last week it would kill the TouchPad tablet, two clear messages emerged: First, the iPad leaves little room for competition in the tablet world. Second, Cisco had better be a little nervous about making its Cius tablet work.
After all, if HP couldn’t take on Apple, how does Cisco think it will fare in the Cius vs. iPad battle? Price alone is a problem. The Cius went on sale this July for $750 while the iPad 2 starts at $499.
Now that HP has killed the TouchPad and online outlets are selling TouchPad tablets for as low as $99, they are selling like hotcakes. The lesson there? At cheaper prices, any tablet will sell. For more expensive prices, consumers are turning to iPads.
Cisco’s argument, of course, is that the Cius is not a consumer tablet and it is engineered to work as a unified communications and collaboration client in the enterprise. The problem is, in many cases, the iPad can do the same. So why spend more? Cisco also launched its Quad enterprise social networking program that is meant to work on the Cius, and the company is pushing desktop virtualization for the tablet. These days, there are other VDI programs for the iPad and the concept of enterprise social networking is still questionable.
Then there’s the issue of quality. Generally those who have reviewed the iPad, Cius and TouchPad agreed that the iPad is by far the easiest to use. But more frightening for Cisco is the fact that HP’s WebOS and the TouchPad was reported to be better than the Cius. So if the TouchPad couldn’t survive, how will the Cius?
Even analysts who disagree with HP dumping its PC unit, believe HP is cutting its losses by getting out of the tablet business. With Cisco in a position of rethinking its own corporate strategy, one has to wonder if it should make the same decision as HP.
It’s a song you’ve heard before. The days of overlay wireless LANs are coming to an end as enterprises start to integrate the build-out and management of wired and wireless networks. Switch and router vendors have targeted wireless LAN vendors for acquisition in recent years in order to build their own integrated wired and wireless strategies. Juniper Networks was the most recent shopper, buying Trapeze Networks last year.
Now Adtran has gotten into the action, buying wireless LAN vendor Bluesocket. Adtran is a manufacturer of low-cost, NetVanta-branded network infrastructure based in Alabama (it also sells carrier grade infrastructure to service providers) that sells mostly into wiring closets. BlueSocket is a Massachusetts-based, venture-backed startup founded in 1999.
Last year Bluesocket launched what it calls “virtual wireless LAN” or vWLAN. While most WLAN vendors still rely on a hardware-based centralized controller, Bluesocket has abstracted its controller appliance as software, allowing it to run as a virtual machine on a VMware host server. By freeing the WLAN control plane from a hardware appliance, Bluesocket offers solutions to two wireless networking challenges: scale and cost. A software-based controller is cheaper than a physical appliance, and the scalability of the controller is bounded only by the power of a customer’s virtual infrastructure. As more access points are brought online, customers can devote more computing resources to the virtual controller or add more virtual instances.
Prior to its transition to vWLAN, Blusocket’s largest controller appliance could support up to 200 access points and 4,000 users, according to Chris Koeneman, Bluesocket vice president of sales and marketing. In tests and trials with its virtual controller, the company has scaled up to 1,500 access points and 48,000 users. Koeneman noted that Bluesocket’s virtual controller could scale higher than that. It hasn’t hit a ceiling in tests yet.
Bluesocket’s was named a visionary on Gartner’s last Magic Quadrant for enterprise wireless LAN infrastructure vendors. However, the company is small and it was in the midst of building out a channel partner program. Adtran, on the other hand, is a fairly large (2010 revenue was $606 million), diversified networking vendor with a large sales channel, according to Gary Bolton, Adtran’s vice president of global marketing.
Bolton said Adtran will put its R&D budget into Bluesocket in order to integrate its products with the NetVanta line, particularly around network management and the consistency of network access across wired and wireless connections.
In a further sign of just how important software is becoming to the network, Juniper Networks named former Microsoft executive Bob Muglia as vice president of its newly formed Software Solutions Division.
Juniper has always touted it’s end-to-end JUNOS operating system, but the company has more recently placed heavy focus on providing cloud computing network infrastructure, which is heavily dependent on software for automated provisioning and granular management. Muglia is no stranger to cloud computing software, having headed up infrastructure software and cloud platforms at Microsoft as one of his many roles over his 23 years there. Muglia was booted out of his position there by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer this summer.
Juniper CEO Kevin Johnson (also a former Microsoft exec) said the company will now centralize all of its software initiatives in the new division, including software for Juniper’s SRX Series, vGW Series security products, MobileNext core for mobile operators and Junos Pulse mobile device management tools.
In a comment to Network World, Muglia offers up some insight into where Juniper’s software play and its new focus on the application-driven network:
“The emergence of cloud, heterogeneous devices connecting, and applications (executing) in a much more automated state creates an opportunity to bring software into the network and connect to all devices,” he says. “Networks are configured and managed by manual processes, people with mice and keyboards, and separate from the application infrastructure. There is no way to deal with the scale of the amount of configuration changes in the network to ensure the reliability and consistency of the environment. Networks will be applications driven; applications are at the center of intelligence and business value. The infrastructure as a whole is being driven by the applications. Juniper is very well positioned to take this on with QFabric for cloud and a single operating system platform. There’s not a lot of legacy mess to clean up.”
Juniper is certainly making a good case for its cloud strategy with new technology announcements and high-level execs, but shipping actual QFabric product will be an important first step to gaining market share in the world of application-centric cloud networks.
With Dell buying Force10 Networks, Brocade seeking a buyer and Alcatel-Lucent looking to shed its enterprise business, does anyone want to be in the networking industry anymore?
Which narrative would you like to believe?
- The networking industry is more competitive than ever with Cisco faltering and companies like Juniper and HP gaining market share.
- Cisco owns the market and everyone else is fighting for scraps, hoping to make a graceful exit.
Can they both be true? In recent years we’ve seen companies build up their networking portfolios in an effort to compete head-on with Cisco, only to make a quick exit after those efforts made them into an attractive target for acquisition.
As Henny Youngman might have said: Take my company. Please! Continued »
The axe finally fell late this afternoon. The long-rumored layoffs are official at Cisco.
Just days after the conclusion of Cisco Live, the company’s annual customer conference where William Shatner delivered a keynote and Grammy-winning band Train played a private show for attendees, Cisco Systems confirmed today that it will cut 6,500 jobs from its global operation. An early retirement program will account for 2,100 of the lost jobs. The rest are layoffs, apparently. This represents a 9% reduction in Cisco’s full-time workforce.
Cisco noted that “15% of vice president level and above” employees will get the axe in this move, signaling that Cisco trying to streamline its management structure (and perhaps cut some of its higher paid employees by targeting executive suites).
Cisco also removed an additional 5,000 jobs from its payroll by selling an old Scientific Atlanta cable set-top box factory based in Mexico to Foxconn Technology Group. This move amounts to Cisco outsourcing the manufacturing of set-top boxes to a third-party in order to reduce costs.
These moves are part of Cisco’s “Comprehensive Action Plan” for simplifying the company, improving corporate focus on core businesses and reducing annual operating expenses. As part of that plan, CEO John Chambers laid out a goal earlier this year to reduce expenses by $1 billion. I presume that hiring Shatner and Train to appear at Cisco Live last week was just a drop in that billion-dollar bucket. Still, as you were swaying to the sweet, sweet melody of “Hey Soul Sister” did you think about how that Grammy-worthy performance was probably costing someone a job?
While Cisco Systems uses its annual customer show, Cisco Live, to showcase new products and features that it hopes will sustain its position in the networking industry, HP is touting recent market data that shows it gaining market share. HP says it’s gaining that share at Cisco’s expense.
Mike Banic, HP Networking’s vice president of marketing, told me today that HP is taking share from Cisco because of its architectural approach. Most notably, HP’s FlexNetwork architecture, which the company articulated at Interop Las Vegas. A key tenet of this architecture: Use beefy, feature rich core switches to flatten the network and eliminate the aggregation layer in both your data center and campus LAN, thus reducing capital outlays and operational expenses.
Banic said HP’s market share rose 2.5 points to 12% of revenue in the Layer 2/3 switching market, according to Dell’Oro’s market research. Banic claims this gain came at Cisco’s expense. Cisco’s shared declined to 68.2% from 73.1% a year ago. Banic also highlighted that HP enjoyed modest gains in both the wireless LAN and the enterprise routing markets.
Aside from the TCO savings of HP’s architecture, Banic said customers are also attracted to HP’s integrated security (via the Tipping Point brand it acquired with 3Com), a consistency of user experience across devices, lower prices, lifetime warranties on some product lines, and its Intelligent Management Center (IMC), a 3Com-based network management platform that is notably capable of managing a large number of third-party network devices, including hundreds of Cisco products.
Banic said both major HP Networking product lines (the 3Com/H3c products and its home-grown ProCurve products) are seeing growth. While HP has gained on Cisco in recent quarters, Cisco’s market share remains dominant. Also, networking pros appear satisfied with most of Cisco’s products. SearchNetworking.com recently surveyed its readers about their recent buying habits and attitudes toward Cisco and its competitors. The survey revealed that the majority of self-identified Cisco customers are satisfied with Cisco today, but they are willing to consider another vendors’ products. They identified Juniper and HP as the two top vendors they are looking at. Sixty percent of Cisco customers who said they replaced Cisco products with competitors’ gear in part of their network identified price competition as the top consideration in their decision.
Today I learned the meaning of the term virtual wife (vWife). No, this is not some virtual instance of a physical wife that can be provisioned on demand to share the load of washing dishes and changing diapers while running a multinational corporation. Nor is it some hot elfin chick you “meet” on World of WarCraft.
A vWife is actually the bored (yet very supportive) spouse of a VMworld or EMCworld conference attendee.
Using the website Spousetivities, vWives can sign up to join their vSisters at the spa while their husbands are “better focusing” on the conferences. Spousetivities bills itself as “the fun side of tech conferences,” which at first lead me to believe that at last, some gossip blogger would expose all of the extramarital activities that take place at tech conferences. Instead, Crystal Lowe, the wife of VMware genius Scott Lowe, uses the site to promote her side events with related prizes and discounts for tech spouses looking for a good time (but not that kind of good time).
I applaud Lowe for taking the initiative to start what appears to be a viable small business, but I pose this question to bored tech conference wives (or husbands) everywhere: Wouldn’t you rather save a village than tag along to a conference at which you’re not required to attend?
Before you get offended, it’s not like I’m suggesting you “stay home and get a life,” which is what one of our TechTarget Networking Group editors said (and frankly what I have thought when passing you wives laying by the pool while I traipse off to another interview). Instead I ask, why not raise money for virtualized data centers in, say, Haiti, where an entire nation’s school system can be made functional with two physical servers hosting a couple dozen virtual machines?
Far be it from we, the SearchNetworking editors, to demand that vWives or anyone else not have a good time. By all means, party down vSisters. I just wonder: could you be doing more?
Avaya is going public again. The scion of AT&T and Lucent Technologies, was a public comapny once before. Back in 2007 private equity firm Silver Light Partners bought it out and took it private. Now it’s looking to take Avaya public again with a $1 billion IPO of about 20% of the company.
You may think of Avaya as a telephony and unified communications vendor, but it has a significant share of the enterprise networking market since acquiring bankrupt Nortel’s enterprise business for $900 million. With that deal, Avaya gained telecommunications market share and inherited a modest enterprise networking business. And Avaya is definitely making a go of it with that networking business.
So what to make of this IPO? In a press release, Avaya said it would use the money raised in the IPO to pay down long-term debt, among other things. Silver Lake Partners certainly isn’t desperate for liquid capital. It just made billions by selling Skype to Microsoft. It never hurts a successful vendor to unload some debt, so I’d say this is a good thing.