The Riverbed Blog (testing)

A blog in search of a tagline

Cisco credibility forever changed

Posted by riverbedtest on March 26, 2010

It has been pretty entertaining to skim online commentary in the wake of Cisco’s not-so-exciting-after-all announcement of the CRS-3. Here’s a quick recap of the situation for any who didn’t trip across the ubiquitous marketing as it was happening:

After a relentless campaign of hype…

 

… including the promise that Cisco was going to “forever change the Internet,”

  

… and a big countdown clock to the EXACT MOMENT of this GLORIOUS EVENT

 

… what we actually heard was… 

 

Cisco will be building and selling a big router.  
 

(Yawn.  Soft sound of chirping crickets in the background.)
 

The mismatch between the claims and the reality was not exactly unexpected. At Riverbed, we’ve been competing against Cisco WAAS for more than 5 years, and we’ve become accustomed to exaggerated claims from Cisco for both the virtues of WAAS and the evils of our product.  We’ve even had some fun with it along the way, picking up the wilder quotes from Cisco marketing people and then contrasting those with the realities of the products as shown in screen shots and documentation.

 

So when I saw that this supposedly Internet-changing announcement was happening at the same time that I would be on an airplane, I didn’t particularly worry that I would miss something important.  I certainly didn’t make any effort to rearrange my plans around the event.
 

That said, there was a little nagging doubt in my mind – we have a lot of respect for Cisco capabilities overall (basically, as soon as you move away from WAN optimization and other app-layer stuff). There was always the possibility that some of the many smart people at Cisco dealing with routing, switching, security, etc. had really come up with something interesting.
 

And it seems like a lot of other people expected something much bigger and better. I don’t know whether people were actually rearranging their calendars to watch the announcement, but certainly it seems like many had invested some of their time and attention in Cisco and felt like they had been duped.   Marek Fuchs of thestreet.com posted a video before the announcement commenting on the atmosphere. From my Riverbed experience, he got me laughing at a couple of points: “Cisco is a responsible company, and they’re really hyping this” and “they’ve been a very accurate company historically – one of the few.” But he got it exactly right when he said matching up the hype to the reality of the product would be a good basis for deciding whether to trust Cisco going forward or whether there’d be a need to re-evaluate. 
 

Was I the only one who saw a gap? Doesn't seem like it. After the announcement, Marguerite Reardon at CNET noted that it was "more of an incremental upgrade to the company's existing product, the CRS-1. IP routing is Cisco's bread and butter. It's not surprising that the company has developed yet another big router to keep up with growing Internet traffic demand."

Escalating to the next level of snarkiness, Loring Worbel at TechBites commented that “Cisco CEO John Chambers’ come-to-Jesus pontificating has gotten so over the top, it’s useful to have [real-time blogger] Scott [Raynovich] serve as real-time standup comic to poke holes in the proselytizing.  And someone needs to tell Cisco executives it’s wrong to call a session Q&A, when it’s just mid-level managers from Cisco interviewing each other.” 

 

But the pithiest response to the "forever change" line came from the reaction of Jim Duffy on Network World's Cisco Subnet: “Well, it forever changed the way we'll set expectations for a Cisco announcement.”
 

There were some commentators who were willing to cut some slack to Cisco that they were caught out by a changed environment… I guess when you screw up, it's better to claim adverse circumstances rather than incompetence.  Still, it's not exactly complimentary that one "nice" analysis thinks that Cisco didn’t realize that they were a consumer brand, or that another argues they were thrown off by the way that Apple has changed mainstream expectations.

 

It feels like the CRS-3 announcement has served as a wake-up call for a number of people that Cisco either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that there’s a difference between a new router and “forever changing the Internet.”  And realizing that Cisco gets that wrong suddenly opens eyes to the possibility that maybe Cisco’s credibility is suspect in some other areas… like WAAS.

 

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2 Responses to “Cisco credibility forever changed”

  1. Arun said

    Mark,
    This blog shows, how ethical Riverbed is. Your right, Cisco’s bread and butter is Routing and switching but your bread and butter is bashing Cisco.
    You are just a typical marketing machine whose DNA is to bash Cisco. You are ex-Cisco employee and I am ex-Riverbed employee.
    Don’t try to justify that your move from Cisco to Riverbed was right. Riverbed every day fears that companies like Cisco can overtake them any day. You still fear from Cisco thats why 90% of your marketing material are aginast Cisco. 90% of your blogs on this site are against Cisco.
    STOP bashing your competitor, You are taking CRS example to bash Cisco WAAS. Ha ha what a BS

  2. Vivian Chan said

    What does Riverbed know about “game changing”? Overstep your boundary and discuss CRS-3? What does Riverbed know about routers? Nothing. So stop the bashing and stick to WAN optimization which is why us, your potential customers are here to read.

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