The Network Hub

April 22, 2010  12:32 PM

Interesting numbers on used network gear, Cisco SMARTnet spending

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

Network Hardware Resale, probably the biggest seller of used network equipment in the country, surveyed 1,200 North American enterprises who have bought used networking gear or “alternative maintenance services” over the past year. The company released the results this week, in advance of next week’s Interop show.

The findings:

  • About 80% of those companies have used network gear in their production networks.
  • 61% are expanding their networks with used gear.
  • 40% will increase their spending on used gear in 2010.

There’s not a big surprise here. Times are still tough and companies who have spent on used network gear in the past aren’t afraid to do it again in the future.

Network Hardware Resale also sells “alternative maintenance services,” basically a service aimed at competing with Cisco’s SMARTnet maintenance program.  Consequently, this survey also focused on how enterprises support their networking gear. This is where it gets a little more interesting.

Forty percent of these surveyed companies say that they only buy Cisco SMARTnet maintenance contracts for their core network equipment. And 31% of respondents have cut or plan to cut maintenance spending on some network gear to save money. Almost 25% have replaced SMARTnet with alternative services from companies like Network Hardware Resale.

April 13, 2010  9:23 AM

Cisco demands end of Heck no, it won’t go

rivkalittle Rivka Little Profile: rivkalittle

After five years and 600,000 hits a month, the has been forced by Cisco to change its name. The new name?

Cisco pulled trademark rank, demanding the name be changed by July 4. The blogger, a Cisco certified engineer, learned along the way that his certification required that he not violate the Cisco trademark:

“First off, Cisco is fully in the clear legally to do what they’re doing. I’ve done a little research myself and even spoken with a couple trademark lawyers on this …

Despite finding this out, I was still really bugged about this move…especially with the hundreds (if not thousands) of other domains that use Cisco in their name. That is…until Cisco pointed out to me violating their trademark policy also violates their certification NDA agreement…What?!? Yep, it’s true…buried there in the certification agreement you take every time you take a certification exam is essentially the statement, “I will not violate Cisco’s trademark.” (who knew?).”

It may be legal, but it’s still lame. The … ooh I’m sorry, … is an engineer’s blog filled with tips and support for Cisco products.

Cisco puts engineers through the ringer for certification (with purpose) and then cuts them off at the pass by doing things like limiting use of Cisco IOS simulators. Allowing engineers to use simulators or launch blogs with easily identifiable names may not earn the company money, but helps its corps of engineers (so to speak) become better. We’re not asking that Cisco go all open source (god forbid), but come on, throw a bone.


April 5, 2010  10:57 AM

Is data center interconnect news worth a flogging?

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

Two months ago I wrote a story about Cisco’s Overlay Transport Virtualization (OTV) data center interconnect technology, which Cisco claims can take a lot of complexity out of data center interconnects and simplify the migration of virtual machines across data centers via technologies like VMware’s vMotion.

Systems engineer Kenneth Hellmann read the story recently and took exception to some of the claims made.

I was just reading your “Cisco data center interconnect aims to fix vMotion network trouble”. The following section left me speechless:

[“Between them, you’re running MPLS and a VPLS tunnel. That’s complex. It’s hard to configure. You have to have an MPLS network. You have to configure the VPLS tunnel between them as an overlay. VPLS configuration is notoriously complex. Then you have to optimize performance.”

What’s more, all that work with an MPLS and VPLS only sets up a connection between two data centers, Antonopoulos pointed out. If an enterprise wants to establish virtual server migration between three or more data centers, each data, engineers will have to build links between all of them. “Data center A will have to be connected to data center B,” he said. “Data center B will have to be connected to data center C, and data center C will have to be connected to data center A.”

Cisco’s Griffin claimed that configuring a data center interconnect for virtual server migration between two data centers can take months with existing technologies, whereas the OTV feature can be set up in five minutes.]

I freely admit that I am a Systems Engineer for [REDCATED], so you may see me as biased, but those statements are just the purest of nonsense. I teach a 5 day MPLS Configuration class and the L2 VPN section takes 4 hours (which includes two labs). That is for VLL and VPLS. And everyone gets it. Why not…it’s incredibly easy. For your own information, here are the configuration lines (over and above the normal configuration needed for an  OSPF router) to turn on MPLS and configure a VPLS between 3 sites (of course you must have a similar configuration on the other two PE routers):

router mpls

mpls-interface e 1/1



vpls  Datacenter  20000


vlan 10

tagged e 3/1

Yes, that’s it. Now tell me, how does that correlate with the following statements in your article?:

1) “Between them, you’re running MPLS and a VPLS tunnel. That’s complex. It’s hard to configure”

2) “VPLS configuration is notoriously complex”

3) “Cisco’s Griffin claimed that configuring a data center interconnect for virtual server migration between two data centers can take months with existing technologies”

Do you reporters ever vet what you are told or is Cisco given a pass on everything they say? If a CNN reporter reports a third party story which later turns out to be bogus, he is publicly flogged. At the very least he writes a retraction.

How about you?

I won’t be running a retraction or submitting to a public flogging, but I am happy to reproduce Kenneth’s email here so his point of view can be shared.

I should also point out the first two paragraphs Kenneth reproduced from my story  are quotations and paraphrases of statements made by an independent third party, Andreas Antonopoulos, senior vice president at Nemertes Research, rather than a Cisco representative. I wasn’t serving as a Cisco stenographer on this story.

Also, I’m an editor, not an engineer. So I can only rely on what independent third parties tell me about products and technologies. It’s an unfortunate limitation, I freely admit.

On a related note, Abner Germanow of Juniper Networks pointed out that I should have mentioned in my original story that Cisco’s OTV technology only works in a Cisco environment.

April 5, 2010  10:39 AM

‘They want an elephant sculpture with some mold or gold?’: Video over WLAN, a cautionary tale

Jessica Scarpati Jessica Scarpati Profile: Jessica Scarpati

Video. Video. Video. Yup, we keep hearing the drumbeat, too.

Although the jury’s still out on how many enterprises are extensively using video (or plan to this year), Cisco would certainly like you to believe its ascent is as certain as the rising and setting of the sun.  And why not? More powerful networks = more ritzy equipment for them to sell, right?

In the event that I’m eating my cynical words over the next few months, here’s an entertaining if not ominous look at what Cisco sees as the fate of enterprises that cheap out on video over WLAN:

April 2, 2010  10:10 AM

Cisco responds to ongoing (and latest) slew of backorders

Jessica Scarpati Jessica Scarpati Profile: Jessica Scarpati

As we went to press with this week’s story about the most recent supply chain backup at Cisco — part of a broader supply chain problem that has persisted for the past few months — we hadn’t heard much in way of a response from Cisco executives about the six month-plus delays on Cisco’s ASA firewalls and other networking gear customers and partners have been experiencing.

This came into my inbox Thursday around noontime ET (sadly, past deadline), from corporate spokesman John Earnhardt:

“As we mentioned during our last quarterly conference call, we have experienced longer lead times on several of our products. This was the result of increased demand driven by the improvement in our overall markets. And, similar to what is happening in the entire industry we are seeing some product lead time extensions stemming from supplier constraints. We continue to build upon our strong relationships with our suppliers to proactively manage our supply chain and minimize any potential impact to our customers and partners.”

The statement is pretty much what Cisco wrote, as John mentions, in their Section 1A of their 4Q09 report about risk factors for investors.

As if the whole situation wasn’t causing networking pros enough headaches, reps form Network Hardware Resale tell us that low supply is pushing prices up as well. Ouch.

Let’s see of a show of (virtual) hands. Have you had any nasty backorders on networking gear — Cisco or otherwise? What kind of prices are you seeing?

March 25, 2010  4:45 PM

What’s the deal with the Cisco ASA firewall shortage?

rivkalittle Rivka Little Profile: rivkalittle

Cisco channel partners and users are having difficulty getting their hands on Cisco ASA firewalls. This news surfaced during a SearchITChannel advisory board meeting, when more than one member Cisco VAR said they were unable to access Cisco ASAs both directly and through distributors.

Cisco didn’t immediately return emails regarding the Cisco ASA firewall shortage, but executives at a partner distributor confirmed that there is a backlog that won’t be resolved until May or so – and it’s on Cisco’s end.

The distie executives said they don’t know the cause of the backlog, but noted that Cisco has had its share of supply chain problems in recent months. In January, disties and channel partners found themselves unable to access core networking products due to supply chain shortages, Channel Insider reported. Cisco chalked that up to an unexpected surge in demand.

Maybe answers explaining the Cisco ASA firewall shortage will arise soon.

March 23, 2010  4:40 PM

CCIE survey: Security skills top all others … then comes virtualization

rivkalittle Rivka Little Profile: rivkalittle

Cisco may be pushing users to acquire blade server skills, but 64% of CCIEs in a recent survey said that risk management and network security will be the most crucial networking skills to have in the next five years. One in three of the same group said network security breaches will remain among the top concerns of CIOs over the next five years.

Cisco (using the research firm Illuminas) surveyed 970 CCIEs internationally (as part of a 15 year celebration of the CCIE launch) to determine what the digital infrastructure landscape will look like in the next five years.

Virtualization played a large role in the survey with another 67% of respondents saying the technology would be the top networking investment over the next five years as CIOs push to reduce power consumption and spending. After years of virtualization being sold as a data center and systems technology, these results highlight the crucial role of networking in virtualization and vice versa.

Virtualization will also introduce network complexity and management challenges, according to those surveyed, so 56% of respondents said network architecting skills would be in high demand to take on these new challenges.  

The CCIEs surveyed also noted the importance of unified communications, with 77% saying IP telephony has been the single largest trend over the last five years, while another 47% said unified communications will be a leading trend in the coming five. Meanwhile, another 52% said video would be a leading enterprise green initiative.

Cisco has published full CCIE survey results, as well as a CCIE survey white paper with analysis.

March 15, 2010  1:42 PM

Does change management destroy your day?

rivkalittle Rivka Little Profile: rivkalittle

An excellent post on the science (and definitely not art) of network troubleshooting on the PacketLife blog last week, resulted in a mini-debate on whether network change andconfiguration management is a lifesaver or a time-sucking burden for network admins. The answer, it appears, is probably somewhere in the middle.

PacketLife blogger Jeremy Stretch runs through his network troubleshooting method, which includes NOT starting the process at Layer One as many do, but also involves detailed recording of problems and their solutions as well as redoing tests numerous times to confirm functionality after the fix is implemented.

The idea of redoing tests for one reader was laughable considering he has to wade through a river of paper work in order to do even one test.

The increasing need to adhere to strict change control procedures kills the science of troubleshooting. In my world one test would require mounds of paperwork and numerous sign offs. To do my job I’m forced to do things under the table and hope I don’t break anything and call attention to my activities,” wrote the reader, who calls himself/herself PompeyChimes.

Those complaints brought on an outraged response from a reader known as HH.

“For the love of god, use proper change management procedures… Too often are problems caused by hotshot admins who think they know everything,” HH wrote.

Stretch tempers the argument with the following middle road response:

“HH makes a valid point. Change controls are great – IF they’re implemented practically. So long as they leave an engineer enough room to maneuver, they can be an excellent tool to help generate documentation during the troubleshooting process.”

We’ve written a number of pieces on the virtues of change management in virtualization and change management in storage, but much more often than not we hear of the nightmares involved in dealing with change management. The answer probably doesn’t lie in doing away with change control, but instead in implementing procedures that are realistic for the admins carrying them out daily.

March 15, 2010  11:44 AM

Brocade learns that networking pros aren’t like storage geeks

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

Network Computing blogger Howard Marks made some good points recently about why Brocade has struggled to sell the Ethernet networking product line it acquired from Foundry back in the summer of 2008. As Marks points out, Brocade tried to sell sell Foundry products in the same way it has traditionally sold its storage networking products: via OEM agreements with big server and storage vendors like IBM and Dell. But networking pros aren’t much interested in buying networking products from server vendors. They prefer going with someone they know, such as Cisco, ProCurve or… Foundry.

Wall Street has been displeased with Brocade’s Foundry results so far. As Munjal Shah, analyst with Jefferies and Stifel Nicolaus told the Wall Street Journal:

Brocade is facing challenges in integrating the Ethernet [business] as the sales model is different and Ethernet [original equipment manufacturers sales] are slow to materialize. Brocade has solid position in data center and relative valuation is low, but we believe it will take some time to resolve the execution issues.

Brocade has responded by appointing John McHugh as its new chief marketing officer. McHugh is a veteran of HP, where he is credited with starting up the ProCurve division. More recently McHugh was the head of Nortel’s enterprise solutions business. No surprise that he’s jumping ship after the Avaya acquisition. Burnishing the Foundry business appears to be a nice challenge for him.

Marks says Brocade also got away from what made Foundry a modest success in a crowded networking market: good support from sales engineers. Brocade tried to monetize those resources by turning what used to be free support into professional services. This alienated existing customers, apparently. Now Marks says he’s hearing from internal sources that Brocade is going back to the old Foundry approach, which should help it win over some new customers and perhaps retain some existing ones.

March 11, 2010  5:07 PM

Wireless LAN market on fire, Motorola closing in on Aruba while Cisco slips

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

Market research firm dell’Oro Group has published its latest quarterly market update on the wireless LAN industry. According to the firm, the market hit an all-time high in the fourth quarter of 2009. The ratification of 802.11n has really set this market on fire. Apparently IT organizations in the retail, education, healthcare and hospitality sectors are all spending a ton of money on new wireless LAN infrastructure right now.

This is driving a lot of revenue growth, but some vendors are reaping the benefits more than others.  I asked dell’Oro analyst Loren Shalinsky for detials.

Cisco remains number one in the market by a huge margin, Shalinsky said. But Cisco did not have a good quarter. Its wireless LAN market share shrank by about four points he said, and revenue was down for the quarter (Shalinsky didn’t say by how much).

Motorola had an awesome quarter, growing by 40% sequentially from the third quarter, he said. The growth spurt nearly helped it overtake Aruba Networks as the number two vendor for enterprise wireless LAN. Aruba’s revenue grew by 7% in the same period. Shalinsky said total product revenue for the fourth quarter was $42 million for Aruba and $40.5 million for Motorola. Of course, Aruba would point out that it is also selling quite a few products through it’s OEM relationship with Alcatel-Lucent, which saw its revenue grow by 30%. Alcatel actually overtook Meru Networks in market share and claimed the number five position. (HP ProCurve is holding steady at number 4).

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