Practical Analysis: IT Pros Don't See Cisco's Claimed TCO Advantage
Network architects want automation, virtualization support, and standards, and they aren't getting all that from Cisco.
Cisco has been fighting a PR battle with competitors over a Gartner report, released in November, that says multivendor networks are less complex to run than all-Cisco networks and could translate into a 20% cost savings over five years. Competitors love the report, of course, while Cisco says Gartner's advice is myth-based.
Cisco says the problem is that Gartner, and networking Johnny-come-latelies such as Hewlett-Packard and Dell, talk and think too much about acquisition price and not enough about long-term total cost of ownership. Perhaps, but what do IT pros think matters, and where do they put Cisco?
In our InformationWeek Analytics IT Pro Ranking of data center networking vendors, we asked just that. As it turns out, IT pros agree with Cisco: Acquisition cost isn't the most important consideration. In fact, it ranks fifth of 10 criteria, after reliability, performance, operation cost, and quality of post-sales support.
With a priority list like that, a white-glove vendor such as Cisco must stand out from the competition, right? Wrong. Cisco fares well in our ranking, but HP and Brocade do just as well, and IBM and Juniper are close behind.
Clearly, Cisco must attribute some benefits to its own products that its customers don't, and here's where our survey respondents agree with Gartner. While Cisco gets high marks for reliability, performance, and the breadth of its product line, it gets low marks for service innovation, operation cost, and acquisition cost. HP and Brocade top Cisco on operation and acquisition cost. In other words, based on the experience of IT pros, Cisco is the one living the myths, not Gartner.
As much fun as it is to watch a major vendor defend untenable positions, the main point is that while reliability and performance got Cisco to the top of the heap (the fans were so strong in the original AGS routers that they held the faceplate on even when the screws were removed), those attributes are no longer so important. Merchant silicon is so good that two electrical engineers and a kid with a soldering iron can make a pretty reliable wire-speed 10-Gbps Ethernet switch with redundant power supplies and fans. What's not so easy to do is support emerging technologies like virtualization with a flexible and powerful management architecture. That takes some engineering, and standards work.
Not good for Cisco. In the same survey, we asked which features matter most for data center switches. The answer: virtualization support, adherence to standards, and configuration automation. IT pros care least about proprietary technology in advance of standards and a migration path from 40-Gbps to 100-Gbps Ethernet. You can start to see the challenge for Cisco, whose management system for Nexus tries too hard to preserve the legacy interface for IOS, doesn't do enough for automation, and of course assumes an all-Cisco environment. As a result, Cisco is in the middle of the pack on feature scores, which makes it hard for the company to demand its usual acquisition price premium.
Every networking vendor will be talking about standards, ease of management, and virtualization and automation. And as a result, it'll be increasingly tough for Cisco to find a TCO case that offsets its high acquisition cost. This Gartner report is on the money.
Art Wittmann is director of InformationWeek Analytics, a portfolio of decision-support tools and analyst reports. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out more about Art Wittmann, please visit his page.
The Business of Going DigitalDigital business isn't about changing code; it's about changing what legacy sales, distribution, customer service, and product groups do in the new digital age. It's about bringing big data analytics, mobile, social, marketing automation, cloud computing, and the app economy together to launch new products and services. We're seeing new titles in this digital revolution, new responsibilities, new business models, and major shifts in technology spending.
Top IT Trends to Watch in Financial ServicesIT pros at banks, investment houses, insurance companies, and other financial services organizations are focused on a range of issues, from peer-to-peer lending to cybersecurity to performance, agility, and compliance. It all matters.
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of September 18, 2016. We'll be talking with the InformationWeek.com editors and correspondents who brought you the top stories of the week to get the "story behind the story."