In Denial about the Future of Cisco Support

Why must Cisco support come directly from Cisco? If you’re a company whose stellar margins are under attack from many directions, you are hoping people don’t ask this question, because the answer is very, very bad for you.

The company’s situation has fast-talking Cisco CEO John Chambers exercising his question-dodging skills these days according to Information Week commentator Rob Wittman. In “Cisco’s Chambers Pivots, Avoids Reality,” Wittman analyzes a published interview with Chambers and assesses the executive’s dismissal of SDN on generic hardware. Per Chambers, “We have 25,000 software engineers. If this could be done in software, we’d have already done it.” Wittman weighs in as follows: “If Google can make its own networking hardware…chances are a whitebox approach will work for anyone—provided the standards are there and adhered to and the right software companies emerge. For a man who constantly says that Cisco’s main job is to listen to its customers, he sure isn’t listening to this group.”

We’re not convinced Cisco is hearing its support customers either, as Cisco support contracts remain overpriced and underutilized by many organizations. That leaves a real need in the market for another option.

Separating Hardware, Software & Support

Remember the fate of the many manufacturer claims that hardware and software had to come from the same vendor? Since the long-ago days when PC manufacturers feared Microsoft Windows and proprietary UNIX companies cowered from Linux, arguments for an intrinsic hardware/software link have been proven wrong. The trend continues today in servers and expanding to storage.

Claims about unbreakable product/support ties are now suffering the same fate. Hardware purchases and ongoing support needn’t be sourced from the same vendor.

Although support isn’t the commodity hardware is, third party Cisco support providers easily undercut Cisco SMARTnet on price, offering savings up to 70%. The best ones also outperform Cisco on service, with better responsiveness, no escalation procedures, highly flexible contract options, multi-vendor support capabilities, and much more.

Cisco and its CEO will likely continue in its denial, insisting that hardware, software, and support are best as a package deal—even though they’re not. Until the company settles on a profit-protecting pivot strategy, there is little choice but to talk proud. To the rest of us, it’s clear that proprietary networking is in trouble, as well as that product-vendor and support-provider are rapidly decoupling.

The Take-Away

Busy, budget-conscious IT leaders can now free themselves from the OEM stranglehold, including their death-grip on overpriced Cisco support contracts. The advantages of doing so are significant, among them savings, uptime, and service quality. Check out this white paper’s examination of the facts, and you might find yourself making your own pivot—toward the third party maintenance market for your Cisco support needs.

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