A rival lists Cisco's top 5 worst technology moves

Personally, I'm amazed at just how many of Cisco's competitors seem to be total pushovers whom always appear to raise a "white flag of surrender" not long after Cisco invades their market space. So imagine my surprise when I received the following scrappy email from a Cisco rival listing Cisco’s top 5 worst technology moves: Hi Brad, Hope you are well. In light of Cisco’s recent Unified Computing System announcement, wondering if you might be looking for some blogging fodder. Cisco has a blog up entitled "Unified Computing: Beware of the Naysayers" in which the blogger argues that naysayers sound suspiciously like the same bunch that didn’t give Cisco any chance of success in the voice market and the SNA-to-IP migration specifically. Cisco likes to frame this by talking about "catching market transitions" as in Cisco has the ability to foretell the IT future and out-execute everyone before they even know what hit them. So, with gift of prophecy like this, there is no way Cisco can ever get it wrong, right? Well, not so fast. Indeed, for all of its good strategies, Cisco’s history is littered with bad decisions and moves that you (not surprisingly) don’t hear about and therefore may not know about. In fact, here’s a Top 5 list of the worst technology moves Cisco has made within just the last 10 years:

5. Application Oriented Networking Perceived Opportunity: Arguably Cisco’s first toe dip in the server arena. AON was supposed to unify, simplify and amplify (sound familiar?) the middleware sprawl that supposedly plagued system vendors. Key Acquisitions/Investments: Development of a AON-specific business unit, a rogue group of sorts led by a former IBMer Taf Anthias. Result: Taf reported directly to the chief development officer at the time (Mario Mazzola) instead of Charlie Giancarlo, who led the data center and infrastructure groups, the logical fit for AON. Politics really hurt this group along with really bad technology that never worked. Within a couple of years AON was technology non grata.

4. Infiniband Perceived Opportunity: A "protocol agnostic" attempt to be everything to everyone by offering IB as a high-speed, server-to-server interconnect to complement its 10 GbE and Fibre Channel offerings. Key Acquisitions/Investments: TopSpin ($250M). Result: Infiniband is still very niche and Cisco doesn’t ever talk about this technology anymore. Actually, the crown jewel of the TopSpin deal was actually supposed to be its VFrame, data center orchestration platform. Alas, VFrame (after 4 versions) never really did anything significant and didn’t even seem to have a role in the Project California solution.

3. Storage Networking Perceived Opportunity: Cisco thought iSCSI was going to be the "killer" technology that would supplant Fibre Channel everywhere and kill off that market. Then it decided on a "if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em" strategy of building its own line of Fibre Channel switches. Key Acquisitions/Investments: NuSpeed ($450M), Actona ($82M), Andiamo Systems ($1.4B in a controversial "spin-in" deal that made a handful of executives and engineers very rich, much to the disdain of many others). Result: After more than six years, Cisco only reached a distant second place in the market by default (there was nobody else left) and never came close to its goal of 50%+ marketshare within 3 to 5 years of market-entry, as required by its "advanced technology" strategy.

2. Content Switching/Networking Perceived Opportunity: Cisco’s first attempt to corner and dominate the L4-7 market. Key Acquisitions/Investments: ArrowPoint ($5.7B), Netiverse ($210M), SightPath ($800M) total of $6.7 billion in stock and cash. Result: Very diffused product strategy, with bits and pieces being of marginal technology being distributed all over the company.

1. Optical Networking Perceived Opportunity: Cisco’s attempt to corner and dominate the L1 (physical transport layer) market in the frenzied heyday of the "fiber glut" build-out of optical cables. Key Acquisitions/Investments: Cerent ($6.9B), Qeyton ($800M), Pentacom ($118M), Pirelli ($2.15B), Monterey Networks ($500M), StratumOne ($435M) total of $10.9 billion in stock and cash. Result: Cisco’s enterprise/metro DWDM business was a complete flop with Cisco never reaching top marketshare position in a highly fractured market. Gained better traction in the MSSP (service provider) market but can hardly be characterized as a qualified success.

What's your take, is this scrappy Cisco rival spot on, or totally whacked in its list of Cisco's top 5 worst technology moves? BradReese.Com Cisco Refurbished Contact: Brad Reese Twitter: http://twitter.com/BradReese Call Toll Free 866-864-0506 or International 850-364-4115 Where's Cisco CEO John Chambers today? - Updated Daily

  1. Is theft a family tradition of U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra?
  2. Is Cisco's true cost purchasing Pure Digital $747M?
  3. Cisco unified computing: Gold's gym for buff CIOs or an assisted living center for CIOs to be taken care of?
  4. Cisco unified computing vs. a zero-capex world
  5. Is U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra a cooked goose?
  6. Cisco CCNA - Yusuf Acar busted by FBI as perp in federal bribery sting
  7. Cisco buying Flip video maker Pure Digital? I can't go for that (no can do)
  8. Dow Jones Industrial Average: Cisco may have the right stuff
  9. Cisco expands its SMB router market share but loses ground in high-end segment
  10. Why spaghetti sauce outsells network management systems
  11. View Brad Reese on Cisco Story Archives
Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

SD-WAN buyers guide: Key questions to ask vendors (and yourself)