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Why do customers pay a premium for Cisco? My research shows that Cisco owns about 75% of switching share but only about 55% of port share, showing Cisco’s obvious revenue per port advantage over everyone else. Why does this discrepancy exist? I know some of you will disagree with this, but in general, customers pay up for Cisco infrastructure because it does more stuff faster than competitive products.

One good example of this is the evolution of power over Ethernet (PoE). Years before the PoE standards were ratified, Cisco rolled out its own version of PoE that gave customers PoE capabilities, while the rest of the industry was arguing in the standards bodies. Cisco got a huge, early-mover advantage by having a solution two years ahead of the field. Then, when the standard was ratified, Cisco supported it.

Cisco has maintained this advantage as remains the only vendor with 60W POE today. There are many, many examples of this. EIGRP is a faster, better protocol than RIP; for years Skinny had more features than SIP; EtherChannel was great for port aggregation, and the list goes on. Some vendors scream “vendor lock in” and “proprietary,” but the fact is that Cisco supports all the standards. But customers prefer the Cisco version since it does more.

By far, the biggest news last week from Cisco’s channel event, Partner Summit, was the Intercloud announcement, where the company outlined its vision for a world of interconnected, federated clouds.

Part of the overall cloud strategy for Cisco involves building its own cloud services that could be bought by businesses directly and potentially compete with its channel. That caused some to wonder if Cisco will stick it to its resellers and take the business direct, effectively cutting its channel partners out of the loop. It seems like every year that I hear rumors that Cisco would become more aggressive with its channel partners, but this year it seemed the noise was louder than ever. In fact, I had a conversation with another analyst, whom I’ll leave unnamed, who was convinced that Cisco had been building a secret group inside the company that would enable Cisco to become its own, global systems integrator that would obviate the need for such a large partner organization. Think of it as Star Wars Attack of the Clones meets IBM Global Services.

Line-of-business influence, cloud’s emergence, and the Internet of Things are among the drivers of the new reality for all vendors’ channel partners.

Most channel partner events I’ve been to have a certain theme to them. For example, a few years ago under the rainy skies of Vancouver, Cisco promoted the concept of “Rattle and Hum,” meaning it was time to rattle the competition and get the business for both Cisco and its partners humming. At this year’s event in Las Vegas, the theme of “change” was heard loud and clear, over and over.

During his keynote, Cisco CEO John Chambers mentioned frequently that change might be uncomfortable, but today it’s necessary. Wise words from a man who has seen his own company change several times before and is currently undergoing its own transition.

Credit: REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
Credit: REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

For a couple of years now, Cisco CEO John Chambers has been proclaiming that Cisco will be the world’s No. 1 IT vendor. This proclamation has been met with mixed reactions as the IT community has many large, incumbent vendors already. Over the years, though, Cisco has proven to be the master of market transitions by moving into markets with large incumbents and quickly grabbing a leadership position. Voice and servers are two examples where many thought Cisco had no shot, and now the company stands as the dominant provider in both.

There have been great advancements in UC management; it’s just that we keep adding stuff to UC to further increase the management challenge.

The final day of the 2014 edition of Enterprise Connect kicked off with a panel on the topic of UC Management. Given that the show floor closes the night before, I’m never quite sure how well Thursday sessions will be attended, particularly for a topic like network management, which is viewed by many to be a necessary evil.

This year’s session, though, was packed, which is kind of a good news/bad news thing. It’s great to see this many people come out to the session, but it’s a sign of how much of a struggle managing UC is after all these years. The fact is, despite great advancements in UC management tools, there is no holistic, single pane of glass that organizations can use for the end-to-end UC environment.

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