02 December 2020 | ITHQ writer
COVID-19 has driven years of digital transformation in a matter of months, in a challenging, locked down market. Many businesses have risen to the challenge of doing more with less, flexing to meet the needs of their customers. In networking, Cisco is being left behind by more customer-focused competitors; just as it retires an infrastructure perennial. Time to switch to Extreme Networks?
The technological impact of the pandemic has been huge. We’ve seen whirlwind adoption of video meeting platforms, online collaboration tools, centralised user access management, cost-effective MFA solutions, cyber threat detection and response, plus tools that digitise products or services to meet constraints of operating in a severely restricted market.
Smart tech vendors have recognized brilliant technology is only part of the story. In addition, they’ve worked hard to deliver solutions with a clear focus on customer experience: simple and transparent pricing, flexible options for scaling, consistent innovation to meet fast evolving demands and no unnecessary costs.
Cisco, meanwhile, has made significant changes that have negatively impacted Customer Experience (CX), including pricing and delivery strategies that coincided with the pandemic, overhauling its training program and the end-of-life of one of its most ubiquitous core switching products, the Catalyst 6500 series.
The result presents a compelling reason for businesses in the midst of fast-forward transformation to evaluate alternatives.
The Cat 6500 series is over twenty years old. Since its launch in 1999, the world has changed as have business needs in many cases, beyond recognition. Cisco’s business model has also changed, from hardware provider to SaaS.
This brings with it some serious frustrations for customers, which we’ll come to shortly. Meanwhile, the Cat 6500 series EOL means you can no longer order any of the following products:
There are 43 related product parts also being discontinued with no replacements offered and twenty more with replacements suggested. Pricing for replacements is not mentioned anywhere obvious.
Full details are available from Cisco with the migration options suggesting that customers may be able to receive trade-in eligible products, plus credit towards the purchase of new Cisco equipment. The obvious implication here is that the new kit will be more expensive.
Eventually, you will have no option but to buy new equipment and when you do, you’ll also have to buy licensing. It is now mandatory for licensing to be replaced along with hardware, whereas this did not used to be the case.
License purchasing happens through the Cisco Digital Network Architecture (Cisco DNA). Ex-Cisco customers we spoke to explained that this network is incredibly complex and removes choice regarding software licensing.
Opaque pricing and de facto price hikes are only part of the reason for Cisco’s diminished customer experience (CX).
There has been an obvious swing towards investor relations over customer relations since 2018, when having reported record sales in August, hundreds of people were axed from their customer experience team.
Chuck Robbins has publicly stated that subscriptions are Cisco’s future model, with 78 percent of its software now sold as a service, beating its target of 66 percent. At the same time, it plans cuts of $1 billion in research and development.
With an M&A strategy that includes as many patent steals and technology retirements as it does integrations that benefit customers, it seems that investor appeal and market domination win as often or more than innovation.
In another, ill-timed blow to customers during the pandemic, Cisco overhauled its training program, retiring twenty long-standing certifications and adding new ones. There are currently 158 certs available, ranging in price from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars.
Customers and partners alike spend huge amounts of money and time obtaining Cisco’s certs. Add this investment to the initial hardware costs – when that hardware has been outstripped by competitors - and customer loyalty feels more enforced than earned.
Now, on top of all this expensive commitment, replacing hardware that is no longer sold comes with hidden costs. There seems to be little reward for all that loyalty as a customer when every upgrade or refresh carries expenses that only benefit Cisco and its shareholders.
Gartner now lists confusing pricing, support and service models as cautions against Cisco. The good news is that other core tech is outperforming Cisco’s switches at a lower price point and without any extra licensing or other hidden additional costs.
According to research by McKinsey and Company, executive mindsets have radically changed around the strategic importance of technology.
In the July 2017 edition of the same survey, 48 percent of respondents ranked ‘scaling down costs’ as a top 3 digital priority. In 2020, 87 percent of respondents had a strategic posture towards technology.
Put simply, with market constraints likely to continue as the world recovers from COVID-19, overpaying for your core networking is not only taking valuable resource from other critical digital investments, it is also completely unnecessary.
If you’re using Cisco Cat 6500 products, they have to be replaced. The time is now to switch over to a product that puts the needs of the customer first, offers the flexibility you need to see your business through recovery and comes with no hidden costs.
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