Chambers Challenged –

I’ve just been reading this articles on Chambers Challenged – I also note that the A/B alternate headline was “Does Cisco Systems Have a John Chambers Problem?”

There are a few things that I think are worth noting about this.

Cisco forbes 1

  • it’s Forbes Magazine, one of the most serious media vehicles around.
  • when did you ever hear of John Chambers leadership being questioned in the press.
  • it’s a two page heavily researched piece that points out all of Cisco’s business failings.
  • Cisco isn’t being successful on everything it touches, and doesn’t have a good past record for being successful with acquisitions (some notable success, and some big failures). And it’s explicitly referring to Flip Digital, Linksys, Scientific Atlanta but there are many more failed acquisitions among the successful ones.
  • The numbers aren’t good. Don’t let one success around Unified Computing hide the problems in other business units.

The EtherealMind View

For those people who think I’m overly critical of Cisco, perhaps this will help you realise that it’s a wider issue, it’s not just me. Cisco is having some tough times, and I’m a customer who is experiencing some of those problems acutely. However, my career is more or less linked to Cisco and it’s relative success. I’m in a career partnership with Cisco and as their business fails, so does mine.

From that point of view, I want Cisco to do better and I’ll be judging them critically as a partner and customer until they do.

  • Bob McCouch

    Greg, your closing comment is spot on. Many of us have tightly coupled our careers to Cisco, so it’s in our best interest to see Cisco succeed. Critical analysis of their performance is important.

    Sure, we can all retool for HP or Extreme or Juniper if Cisco really tumbles, but when you spend all your time with Cisco equipment and you know the product behaviors and peculiarities inside and out, much of our value to customers as network engineers is that experience. Gaining that level of product proficiency is a long road. Sure, Spanning Tree is Spanning Tree, but *knowing* how Cisco implements it vs. *reading* how HP does it is a world of difference and a switch is not always just a switch.

  • Dan

    I completely agree but I’ll say that my view is from a completely different perspective given the fact that I’m not so much a Cisco specialist but rather an IT generalist that happens to do a lot with Cisco products in a small business.

    I think that my local Cisco sales reps are horrible. They don’t even return calls. That sort of behavior WILL bite them and I WILL remember and change course accordingly. My experience can not be unique.

    I do not call TAC often but when I do, my experiences are sometimes overwhelmingly frustrating. The language barriers are exceedingly difficult and I think there is a day of reckoning coming for companies which continue to ignore this.

    I’m not really a GUI guy but I’ve tried to test what is available for my switches, routers, wireless & ASAs and make them available to my staff that doesn’t regularly use the command line… INCONSISTENT FRACTURED STRATEGY is the best description I have.

    There is even evidence of failed acquisition strategy in very, very small ways like the “Botnet” filter available for ASAs… so many false positives for ad sites and such as to make the feature which was born out of the Ironport acquisition COMPLETELY USELESS and not worth paying even a small price for – small IT shops will defect to the competition if the trend continues. A ProCurve switch is 2/3 the price of a green one and just as good for must folks… and, has that lifetime warranty!

    • Greg Ferro

      Re: Cisco Sales Reps – Cisco chooses to sell through partners who demand that Cisco not talk to customers directly. Don’t ring Cisco for sales, find a Cisco partner. That will be hard because Cisco has screwed the reseller marketplace to such tight profit margins that Cisco partners won’t care either about a few switches or routers. But, thats the way it works.

      Second: TAC – I feel your pain. It’s not what is was.

      Third: GUI – over the years, GUI for networking has consistently failed to deliver what was needed. It’s a long discussion, but that’s the short version. The command line is consistent, but you have to know what you are doing to understand why the command line is like that. Sadly, I don’t have any better advice.

      Forth: Botnet – welcome to active inspection and security. It’s been that way for ten years and I don’t see it changing.


      • Dan

        Hi Greg, I see the Cisco sales thing the same way you do and, I have a wife that has worked in distribution for years and, I spent 3+ years working at an e-commerce computer reseller so… when the Cisco rep showed up at my door, I thanked him but questioned why he was calling on us. He went on to tell me all about how Cisco had a new focus on the small / mid-size business and that he was “here for me”. I let him know that others, such as Microsoft had recently claimed the same thing and then fell far short of delivering when called upon. I was told by this “veteran” that he’d been with Cisco for something like 14 years and that he could be counted on… blah, blah. So I took his word for it but after a few attempts to connect, I realized it was all talk, even his inside counterpart is no good at returning calls. And, my wife’s experience in the distribution realm is no different so I’m calling them out on their lackluster relationship skills – I think it comes from the top and, from being at the top… it breeds a level of arrogance that is not healthy.

  • Eric McWilliams

    I think Forbes nailed it on the head thanks for pointing out the article. I have to admit I am 100% with you and the comments on this post. I can’t say they aren’t trying to sell the products Cisco is always has a hat in the ring when I am looking at a new project but more and more their hat doesn’t fit.

  • Rob

    Does Cisco’s side businesses have any effect on my core needs – routing and switching (occasionally security)? I’d hope that I could care less if Cisco’s Flip flops or if their TV top video cameras for mom burn. What I really care about is how Cisco’s emerging core products stand up to the other vendors emerging products. With so many to choose from these days that’s hard to find out though.

  • Glen

    I spent 20 years building my carieer as a Cisco systems specialist. In my opinion, Cisco has lost its edge by no longer being innovative and customer focused (Cisco is now Cisco focused). I’ve done quite well moving my carieer to other vendors (in the Security technology space). Juniper, TippingPoint, Palo Alto Networks etc. I’m old enough to remember when my Novell CNE certification was my guarantee to a good job. I don’t even list it on my resume anymore. Even a CCIE certification doesn’t have the luster it did 10 years ago (my opinion here)