Senior director, Cisco Systems Inc.

Maciej Kranz is a senior director in Cisco Systems Inc.’s Desktop Switching business unit. The San Jose-based executive was in Toronto last week and sat down with Network World Canada editor Greg Enright for a discussion about Cisco’s changing approach to selling its networking technology and the firm’s forays into the small medium business (SMB) market.

Greg Enright: Cisco is stretching its sales efforts into markets other than its traditional enterprise base. What is the thinking behind this?

Maciej Kranz: Five years ago, the focus was on just technology and having generic products that we could sell into many different markets….As the market has matured, the requirements have diversified quite dramatically. Our main area of focus continues to be the enterprise, but we have now (intensified) our focus on small/medium businesses, and the metro or service provider piece is growing quite rapidly as well. There’s a big transformation from just the generic products that address all markets to purpose-built products that go out to specific market segments.

GE: In what specific ways are your sales efforts changing? Customers are in some ways forcing us to play togetherMaciej Kranz >Text

MK: Customer requirements are in some ways forcing us to play together…to be certain that, when we deploy security, for example, (we are laying out) a consistent architecture from the core of the (customer’s) network – the data centre – to the (network) edge. And of course, the security challenges are very different in each of these stages. We can’t go to the customer and say, ‘We fixed this part of the security (problem) but this part is still open.’ They’d throw us out of the window. This has required us to change how we develop products. There are a lot of changes in process, how we’re committing functionality features, a lot of coordination of roadmaps not only between the switching groups but also with security or wireless folks as well. This makes it more difficult but it is what customers are demanding.

GE: Are customers’ attitudes changing towards the purchasing of network equipment?

MK: We expect our customers to focus less on network-level performance and services and more on the application and systems-level performance and services. If you talk to a CIO in the company, they don’t care if they have a Gigabit pipe or a [10 Gigabit Ethernet] pipe. They care that there is a certain response time on an application, and that is something that has big implications on how we design our products as well on when we focus on cost-effective application performance and services optimization.

GE: Cisco is also ramping up its efforts to capture a larger piece of the SMB pie. What is Cisco’s philosophy towards this market?

MK: Cisco has learned a lot about SMB over the last couple of years. If you look at our portfolio even today, the approach we’ve taken on the product perspective is that we took enterprise products, put some ease-of use interfaces on them and we sold them into SMBs….I think in many ways that resulted in our relatively unsophisticated view of the SMB market. I think in the last three years, we’ve put a lot of effort into understanding their requirements and segmenting the SMB market and looking at the vertical requirements in the SMB market. The first group of customers we really need to get focused on is the customers who want to buy networks and understand their value, and want to get enterprise-level functionality, but they don’t want to deal with the complexity of it. They don’t want to pay both the capital expenditure and operational expenditure for those.

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