Enterasys CEO: Total cost of ownership sets us apart

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Enterasys' Crowell on battling Cisco and HP, the emergence of fabrics, and a not-so-secret weapon named Isaac

How's this for a challenge? The CEO dies suddenly and you're tabbed to take his place -- on the heels of your network infrastructure company entering into a major new strategic partnership and in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Oh, did I mention your competition includes some companies named Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard and Juniper Networks, among others? That's life for Chris Crowell, CEO of Enterasys Networks, who took over in 2009 shortly after predecessor Mike Fabiaschi's untimely death.

We compete with everybody, every day, and when we win, we win for a variety of reasons. We like to think our biggest differentiation is total cost of ownership. I can list technical differentiators -- there's customer service differentiation, there's value differentiation -- but our total cost of ownership across our complete offering is going to be better than the next guy. A key part of our sales cycle is demonstrating that our total cost of ownership is better than the next guy's.

Juniper talks about that a lot and tries to use that as a wedge against Cisco, talking about having a single software platform, for example. What do you hinge your TCO story on? What are the elements of making that case?

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