In my numerous interactions with the IT networking vendor community, I have come to understand that new products from 3Com, HP, Juniper, etc always get compared to the Cisco offering. Cisco on the other hand keeps trudging ahead with some pretty impressive market numbers which make one to ask: “What makes Cisco so appealing?”
There are several factors at play and why Cisco has more appeal than its closest rivals. One theory is that Cisco puts the hammer down on its resellers that try to push someone else’s gear, and that customers go along with their resellers.
Out of several aspects at play, the "Cisco allure" however has to do with the solution provider that the end user aligns themselves with. It is quite typical for a company to see a particular reseller as their “trusted adviser” and do whatever they tell them. Aside from that, the vendor support that both the reseller and the end-user client get and experience goes a long way in cementing customer loyalty.
While Cisco was among the first vendors in the networking space to introduce specialisation, it is the vendor’s stringent certifications for partners that has helped it to enjoy global appeal with its gear.
What customers want to see is when dealing with a reseller or retailers for that matter is someone versed in the basics of networking, not the specifics of Cisco, HP, 3Com or Juniper gear. End-user clients are not interested in the specifics of a brand but the overall experience when dealing with a product and the maker of that product. They expect their solution provider to know how IP and Ethernet switching works or they don’t.
I need to point out that this problem is not unique to Cisco because each vendor implements technology with its own quirks. Some amount of retraining and learning curve is inevitable when moving from one vendor to another in order to become proficient in configuration and the use of debugging/troubleshooting tools.
Each of the vendors in the networking space has loyalists. Some loyalist clients are after different things. Some clients stick to a vendor purely because they have established a solid reputation and they can be depended on. Others look at price, product quality and features, and the support available to them.
I for one believe that any value for money debate on anything that is purchased is clearly subjective. Some people buy their clothes at a department store, while others shop in boutiques and it shows. I’ll gladly pay more for a quality product that lasts.
If one looks at how Cisco and HP have emerged on the networking scene, one will soon make a distinction that HP has a background in engineering while Cisco is an acquisition company. So that makes Cisco in this context the “department store” of networking.
The emergence of Juniper on the scene means it should not be left out of the debate when weighing Cisco against other switch vendors. The [Juniper EX switch] product range is excellent with a stronger feature set compared to the typical Cisco products.
With the impending HP and 3Com acquisition, it will be interesting to see how the combination of HP ProCurve and 3Com’s technologies will weigh up against Cisco’s offerings. For customers, these changes mean one thing: wider product options to choose from.
Let me know what you think about the consolidation currently taking place in the networking space and what this means for your solution provider business. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
If one goes by the numbers, IT professionals globally buy more gear from Cisco than they do from either 3Com or HP.