Greg Enright: Latest Cisco hype a natural disaster for IS managers

The Cisco machine rolled into Toronto earlier this month for a presentation to a few hundred of its Canadian customers. Along for the ride were some of the company’s top brass, including CEO John Chambers and Vice-President of Enterprise Eugene Lee. A little dented from a multitude of layoffs and other cost-cutting measures, a bit of its paint chipped off as a result of dwindling markets, the machine nevertheless pulled in to deliver its message to the masses.

That message seemed in large part to centre around Cisco’s reminder that they are still the vendor of choice in a number of key enterprise networking areas. This message was rather forcefully delivered in the guise of a new marketing push that refers to hot networking subjects like IP telephony, storage and VPNs as a certain type of natural disaster.

This term was on the tip of every Cisco representative’s tongue who I spoke to, and was uttered all too frequently by Cisco speakers during their presentations. Because you’ll probably be hearing this term ad nauseam in the weeks ahead, I’ve decided that it doesn’t really need another airing in this space. Suffice it to say that this particular type of natural disaster is seen frequently in Kansas and is of the funnel cloud variety.

To brand a particular product with a name that refers to an aggressive animal or occurrence is one thing, but to try to paint an entire series of technologies with such a moniker is taking marketing one step too far. There is absolutely no guarantee that any of the technologies that Cisco refers to will have anywhere near the effect on corporate networks as a funnel cloud has on the terrain it sweeps across.

Because of this fact, purchasers of IT equipment are once again faced with the challenge of weeding out hype from reality, of slogging through potentially deceptive huckstering during the already arduous process of deciding what’s right for their networks.

Can anyone say that optical networking is going to cause the kind of stir a funnel cloud typically does? Is there any guarantee that IP telephony will cause as big a kerfuffle as one of these occurrences? With widespread adoption of either technology nowhere near a reality and their future viability still a matter of hot debate within the industry, how can Cisco say with any certainty that either of them will fly with similar ferocity?

The fact is they can’t, but they’re going to say it anyway in the hopes that enough IS shops will believe the hype and jump on a bandwagon that might never get out of the driveway.

It’s no secret that vendors will often try to create a market for a product they want desperately to sell. The most successful technology users, however, are the ones who overlook these efforts and evaluate a technology on its merits, not on its hype.

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