Enterasys CEO: Total cost of ownership sets us apart

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?

The first part, obviously, is the initial capital expenditure and I think we're very competitive there. You know we're not at the Cisco or Juniper end [of the price spectrum] and we're not at the HP end in terms of the actual cost of acquiring the capital in the first place. But our cost per box is very competitive, certainly when you compare it to the big guys. But more than that is the longevity of that box, the value in that box, the quality of that box -- and that's just the hardware side.

The management piece is the most important part of the story. At Enterasys -- and before that at Cabletron -- we put a lot of value and a prioritization on building out management solutions that make the job easier for the administrator. We have built-in automation capabilities in the firmware that allow the hardware to do things in a less burdensome way than the other guys do.

CASE IN POINT: Enterasys bolsters switches with automation, access control

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