Where will Cisco go from here?

After reading Stephen Fosketts post “How Will Cisco Recover From The Consumer Strategy Blunder?“, it got me thinking.  It’s a very different world than when Cisco got started all those years ago.  I don’t have any brand loyalty to Cisco, I learned on cisco gear 14-15 years ago for the most part, but I try to keep the mentality of “the right tool for the job”, which means constantly surveying th emarket for new and interesting ways to do things.  In doing this, it’s really opened my eyes over the last 10 years.  There are so many more ways to do what needs to be done in networking day to day that are cheaper, supportable and in some cases easier, than going with the big Cisco.  that’s not saying that their gear isn’t fantastic.  I do love it, it works well for the most part and is very sell supported and documented.


I mostly agree with his sentiments.  I think Cisco needs to re-evaluate all of their offerings.  Re-focusing on what worked before is one strategy, but it may not be the best one. They’ve gone into the data center in the last 10 years with new products, their aquisition of topspin gave them IB when it was hot.  I’ve personally not seen much of anything from them with Infiniband in recent memory and I believe they killed off their IB switches. They’ve done deals and made purpose built servers in the past (think call manager and compaq) that were less than stellar.  Storage is key, but he’s right, they’d have to buy some key or upstart gold mine players since it’s a total shift in technology.  Convergence is a nice idea.  I’ve never seen it really done well but I’d love to, so if they can pull it off that’d be a great feather in their cap.  Brocade is very well positioned to master convergence and steal that away.

The Nexus is a fine box, but it’s got a lot of competition from the likes of Brocade, Arista, Extreme and even Juniper for the DC.
In the service provider space they’ve been getting inched out by Juniper for a very long time and technically speaking Alcatel Lucent has a very good platform in that area as well. Their large / carrier security platforms have a lot of arguably better offerings from the likes of Juniper, Fortinet and Palo Alto.
Their core routers have been getting inched out by Brocade, Extreme, Juniper and even Alcatel Lucent.

And what about price? Is their venerable IOS enough to warrant the double and triple price tags and high cost of maintenance? In my small corner of the world it isn’t. Operationally it’s no harder or more cost for us to run a box that is IOS-like, or JunOS.

From my admittedly skewed perspective their bread and butter is in the MPLS PE devices, smaller security appliances and possibly the ASR series. …unless they can pull a Hail Mary SDN solution and corner in the already entrenched customers.

It’s a very different world in networking today than when Cisco took the Lions share of the market. There is real competition. More competition. Cheaper competition with just an many features that is every bit as reliable.

My opinion is that they need a complete rethink of their world, they have good, widely deployed products, leverage existing relationships and get some fresh ideas in.  Or buy someone with some.


  1. Hoosier says:

    Only point I’ll take issue with is Cisco is doing big business with their in-house designed and built blade servers (UCS) with baked-in convergence and management.

    Yes, the servers they used to rebrand/resell were crap, but that was more a product of choosing IBM and HP AND then running their own build of Windows Server OSes that would get really long in the tooth (CallManager, MeetingPlace, etc).

  2. I have only a bit of experience with their server stuff. Overall I was left wanting, but you’re right, it was back when they were rebranding. I do really think that it’s a different world now and they’re going to have to adapt or fade to a shell of what they once were. From a networking perspective, they gear is good….but it’s operationally and fiscally expensive to run. In house knowledge is one thing, but having a good network team means that they are open to new idea and able to adapt. That doesn’t bode well for a company riding on it’s history and the sales team that just expects institutions to “just buy cisco because they always have”.
    Fresh ideas, they need them. They need to pump as much money into fresh, new, hungry employees that want to change the world and come up with innovative ways of doing something and *then* leverage their marketshare.

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