As the two network equipment makers release upgrades to their service provider routers, Cisco uncharacteristically gets tough
When Cisco Systems Inc. CEO John Chambers speaks in public, he is the networking world’s evangelistic preacher, inspiring customers and the industry alike.
Yet recently the company has taken a grittier approach to marketing by attacking a competitor, Juniper Networks. Cisco does so without Chambers’ (pictured) getting his hands dirty.
A new Cisco marketing campaign includes a satirical video that pokes fun of Juniper for taking too long to deliver promised products, comparing delayed networking gear to a late pizza delivery. The video begins with the words, “If networking were like pizza…” and features an actor, wearing the standard polo shirt and khakis of an IT worker, standing in a kitchen complaining over the phone to Juniper Pizza about when his order will arrive. “You guys guaranteed delivery in 30 minutes, and it’s been like 18 months,” he says.
Near the end, the actor cuts into Juniper for lacking a well-rounded product mix as well. “I’m not criticizing your product mix, but you don’t even have pepperoni or large,” he says. “I am merely suggesting that you take the money you are putting into packaging and put it into R&D.”
The video, a related white paper and other materials mention Juniper products that have slipped. It was released Monday, the same day that Cisco [Nasdaq: CSCO] launched three new routers for the service provider market (see below) in support of Cisco ‘s nV virtualization technology. The routers are designed to help service providers cope with data growth from smartphone and wireless tablet users.
Juniper [NYSE: JNPR] quickly responded to the Cisco campaign, calling it a “publicity stunt” without much more comment. “Customers tell us they want an alternative to the legacy approach and we’re focused on delivering innovation for them. It appears as if Cisco has once again lost focus,” a Juniper spokesman said. On Tuesday it released its own enhanced service provider edge routers (see below).
The Cisco attack is unusual but not unheard of. Cisco called out Hewlett Packard in July, and several years ago took on Nortel over its claims about environmentally efficient networking gear. But Chambers himself has never been the one to attack competitors, other than mentioning them as a threat.
Analysts said Tuesday that part of Cisco’s claims about Juniper stem from Cisco’s decline in the edge router market, from about 53 per cent in 2007 to 42 per cent in 2010, according to Dell’Oro Group and others. Plus, Cisco over the summer laid off thousands of its workers, while at the same time hired two high-level Juniper sales executives .
Remarking on the video, analyst Zeus Kerravala of the Yankee Group said, “Well, it certainly is a different Cisco … Historically, Cisco didn’t need to punch back on the competition.”
Kerravala said it was good to see Cisco fighting back against Juniper and HP because those companies “have been taking a lot of shots at Cisco lately.”
Whether the video and related marketing campaign will work remains to be seen. Kerravala said he believes customers will respond positively to the attacks on Juniper.
“Frankly, it’s about time Cisco did this,” Kerravala said, noting that Cisco is correct when it says that Juniper’s QFabric/Stratus data center technology is late to market.
Cisco says on its site attacking Juniper that QFabric was announced two and a half years years ago, but still has not materialized. Cisco also attacks other Juniper initiatives and lists several Cisco technologies that it promised and then delivered in a white paper .
Kerravala said that in the past Cisco didn’t need to be so strident in attacking Lucent, Nortel or 3Com, but the company encountered more competitors than ever in more areas, including some that are y large and successful. “Juniper, HP and Microsoft can run and gun with Cisco, so Cisco needs to respond differently,” Kerravala said.
Still, he said Chambers “will stay out of it.”
The upcoming Cisco routers add to the ASR 9000 aggregation services router series. The 1U-sized ASR 901 is an outdoor cell site device for 2G, 3G and 4G deployments; the 3U-sized six-slot ASR 903 is a unified Ethernet access router which providers can use for offering business, residential and mobile applications, while the ASR 9001 small edge router is dubbed a “baby’ ASR 9000 which can also be used to aggregate 901s and 903s.
Cisco is also extending its network virtualization control software for the 9000 series to support ring topologies as well as hub and spoke.
“The whole (9000) system behaves as a single unit,” said Pankaj Gupta, Cisco’s director of marketing for its service provider business, “sharing the data plane, control plane as well as a single management entity … that truly simplifies network design and architecture.”
The 901 and 903 will ship by the end of the year, while the 9001 won’t be out until early 2012.
Meanwhile Juniper increased the capacity of its MX 3D edge routers to 3.8 terabits per second. The capacity improvements apply to all MX series services, Juniper says, including the company’s new MobileNext mobile core platform for wireless networks. The previous switch capacity on the MX series was 2.6 Tbps.
The upgrade can be achieved through an in-service switch fabric exchange to existing MX series chassis, Juniper says. The company also claims the MX can now support up to three times as many subscribers and double the platform and rack capacity of competitive platforms at less than one-third the total power consumption.
The MX requires less than 4 watts per gigabit of processed traffic, Juniper says.
A single MX960 can support 8 million mobile subscribers or 10,000 business VPNs. It can also process more than 8 billion views on YouTube a day, more than two times the average daily views of the website globally, Juniper says.
The new switch fabric for the MX Series is shipping now. It will go up against Cisco’s ASR 9000 series, which Cisco says can scale to 6.4Tbps; and Alcatel-Lucent’s 7750, which scales to 2 Tbps “and beyond,” according to Alcatel-Lucent.
Juniper did not disclose pricing for the new switch fabric.
Cisco told financial analysts Tuesday in California that it expects annual revenue growth between 5 per cent and 7 per cent over the next three years and expects its still-ongoing restructuring to help the company increase profit faster than revenue.
The restructuring taking place over the past several months has seen 12,900 jobs eliminated through a range of steps, including outsourcing, and shifted 22,700 employees in total.
(With files from Howard Solomon, Network World Canada; Jim Duffy, Network World U.S. and Stephen Lawson, IDG News)