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Longer Sales Cycles in WAN Optimization

I am going to do my best here to avoid casting too many stones, but this just amuses me. Six quarters ago I started in this role. A new director on my team was leading a product launch for a technology we call Wide-Area Acceleration Services, or WAAS for short. It was a promising technology but I was a bit circumspect for a variety of reasons- sales channel, who do we sell it to, how do I get our own sales force excited about it, and one very strong competitor in Riverbed.Mark, and the General Manager for this product, George Kurian, turned me around over the course of the next four quarters by working to with the support of over 1000 customers for WAAS, integrating it into our branch office routers, and showing an aggressive roadmap that has been consistently delivered to.Two quarters into my ‘WAAS-experience’ Riverbed decided to mention that they are winning 98 out of 105 deals, and touting that there would be two memorable IPOs in the past decade, Riverbed and Google. Ya gotta love the hype factor here, but there is nothing that infuriates a sales organization and catalyzes them like tactless rhetoric with poorly substantiated claims. So yesterday I got twp pieces of almost simultaneous enlightening news. Not only is the company I once viewed as a competitor about equal with us in market share (20.2% for them, 20.0% for us according to a leading analyst firm), they also had to pre-announce their miss on their earnings for this quarter. That’s really gotta hurt.The best part for me, almost the ‘sport’ in the entire thing, is that January was challenging month in the market, the roughest we’ve seen in a while. When we reported our earnings for our Q2, ending at the end of January it included this rough month. Many point-product vendors though have a January to March quarter though and are just now reporting on what we talked about a couple of months ago. Maybe our ‘weird’ fiscal quarters do have a benefit after all! So while our competitions bemoans, lengthening sales cycles, enterprise softness, etc I have to raise the question- “While you used to claim 98% win rate and no competition, could the equality in market share really be more an indication that you are simply not seeing all the opportunity and be a sales coverage issue, or simply that there is now a more superior product and solution in the market? Or was the 98% just bluster and hype designed to ‘pump up the volume’ so to speak?”While I guess I grew into this market initially trying to figure out how to outflank a competitor, as we gained momentum, crossed significant product milestones, and have moved more and more to an integrated solution I guess I don’t see Riverbed as a competitor now but more as a niche player that will always help keep us on our toes but no real threat.Next week, we’ll talk about how to take on and out another has-been….dg

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11 Comments.


  1. Mark,I know that you have to do your job and tell folks how the Cisco WAAS solution is the best. But let’s be clear, anyone who has tried to implement the WAAS product will surely indicate that it is the hardest product in the world to configure and get to work. That aside, Larry should recognize that WAAS won’t be a terrible product forever. Cisco is obviously committed to this market and will aggressively add features and enhance the ease of use. There are still questions regarding true integration at the head end (even if you can run wan opt in the ISR). There are still doubts about how Cisco plans to integrate Asymmetric acceleration (AVS / ACE 4710) with WAAS. There are doubts as well about how Cisco will ever integrate a SoftWOC client with WAAS. I can see that Cisco still has challenges with their Islands of Disfunctionality”" where they require customers to buy 3 solutions to be able to properly accelerate content / traffic.Regarding the discussion of “”deployments over 50 branches”", Larry should realize that one of the Gartner WOC Magic Quadrant criteria is to prove that you have a customer that with a large deployment (greater than 50 branches). It is clear from Cisco’s position in Gartner’s WOC MQ that Cisco is lacking in such customers. The Gartner reports are for paying customers only, so I am unable to post either the Magic Quadrant report or the scathing report that Gartner published about Cisco.If you are a Gartner customer (or other analyst firm), you certainly should ask for a briefing on WAN optimization before you consider creating your short list or purchasing a WAN optimization solution.Cisco obviously is targeting Riverbed since they are a threat to Cisco’s branch dominance as well as Cisco’s control of wide area routing protocols. Riverbed’s theory is that if you have great autodiscovery (they do) and more intelligent way to route traffic (better than BGP or OSPF), then Cisco becomes commoditized into being just a layer 2/3 equipment vendor.Ahhhhh….. there is so much to say about this growing and changing market. It is interesting that so many companies are investing in short term solutions to problems that should be fixed by the vendors who created them (Microsoft with CIFS and MAPI). I recommend that CIOs call on their vendors to fix the problems that they have created with their inefficent protocols rather than putting a band-aid on the problem with point product solutions from any WAN optimization vendor.Impartial Observer”

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  2. Doug Gourlay, Let’s put a few things into fact, and I am more than happy to do that, also I like the customer comment above that was posted, he was lost with your product and most customers are. –Riverbed continues to lead the market in technology innovation, awards and market share AND continues to remain at the top of the Gartner Magic Quadrant for wide-area optimization controllers for the second year in a row._Last time I looked at the Gartner Magic Quadrant I think Cisco was at the far right in the challenger position behind, Blue Coat, Juniper and Riverbed. That must be a tuff spot for the mighty WAAS to be in. –Since December 2007, riverbed announced over 3500 customers and dozens of those customers have successfully deployed Riverbed to 50 branch offices or more. Some customers have successfully deployed over 400 appliances. Have you ever heard of a successful CISCO WAAS platform deployment of over 50 boxes? Not WAFS, but on the WAAS product?-Can you please post a verifiable customer who has a deployment of the WAAS not the WAFS, for at least 50 sites and then 100 sites? I would love to call them and talk to them about the roll out, would be a good story for Networkworld. –Actually, it’s been Riverbed that continues to lead in product innovation with two major releases every quarter since 2004, the first to deliver split-termination SSL optimization, data store sych, configurable auto discovery, Oracle 11i eBusiness Suite optimization, Exchange (MAPI 2K3 and 2K5) optimization, MS SQL, option of 3 WAN visibility modes, Riverbed Services Platform offering best of breed partner virtual edge services. Also, as far as I’ve seen, Riverbed’s new Steelhead mobile software client is the best on the market by far. Nothing else works, including your software offering. –I went up against CISCO WAAS all the time and Riverbed almost always wins in side by side bake offs because of superior performance; ease of deployment and management and for the broadest application acceleration support. Doug, why don’t you put your money where your mouth is and agree to a bake off managed through an objective third party, like InfoWorld and Network World? –You brag about your 1000 customers. I’m glad you brought that up because I find it embarrassing that mighty Cisco, with a near monopoly position in networking gear, can’t even give Cisco WAAS away for free to more than 1000 customers over the last several years.-If it was not for bad luck, Cisco would have no luck at all. With the failure of the WAAS, you have been giving them away for free, taking 50% plus percent off and using them more as a give me with customer. It is more like if you buy our router and switches, we will throw in this nice WAAS. That’s a great way to get market share. -How about we post some real number for your WAAS Division? Like what were sales, what did you give away, what were the profits, how many real customers purchased it and did not get 50% off or for free?-I am going to be at Interop, why don’t we just have a back off and I will do it, with everyone present? I will even invite three other companies that are tops in the Gartner Report? We can even do a Mobile Client Back off and give it to people at Interop to use while they are there and on a Wireless Network we set up? I can have the whole thing set up in a day or two. Put your money where your mouth is?-By the way before you say anything, I am a Cisco Partner, I sell Cisco, I like Cisco and I service Cisco. I just don’t like the WAAS, Cisco purchased a company as always to play in a arena they did not belong in. Now they are paying the price and customer know it.

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  3. Feng Meng

    Shawn, thanks for blogging and sharing your experiences with the WAAS team here. We apologize for the inconvenience you experienced during your solution search. Starting about 2 months ago we did encounter some broken links during our large-scale migration to a new content management system. We have since fixed these glitches, and today I’ve randomly tested many WAAS links to make sure they all worked properly. Regarding ease of integration, we have a robust solution already and will be happy to talk to you about it.In addition, we’ll be glad to look into the sales support issues you encountered, and do our best to address them. If you send a quick email to fenmeng@cisco.com I will personally respond to your needs quickly. Feng MengSolutions Marketing Manager, Cisco WAASfenmeng@cisco.com

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  4. Who’s the other has-been”"? Packeteer? I am personally lost in the WAAS solution because of the lack of product documentation: Cisco sales knows nothing about it when I call, links on the WAAS site fail, and there is a total lack of deployment guides on the Cisco site. Compare this to Packeteer, and indeed Riverbed (to a less extent), and WAAS is a non-starter to anybody without a trained Cisco rep willing & able (i.e. paid on your contract team) to help integrate the solution. Therefore, unless you can prove otherwise, we’re going to go with Packeteer for our WAN Optimization needs”

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  5. Feng Meng

    Dear Messenger of Truth:I appreciate that you raised the level of discussion to be truthful, so here are some undisputed facts for our readers to consider:According to Infonetics Q1 2008 market share report, Cisco WAAS has achieved No.1 market share status within 18 months of launching WAAS, despite the fact that all other vendors in the space have been around for 5-7 years. Researching WAN optimization solutions without quantitative analysis like this one is risky, and don’t we have enough risks in this macro economic environment over the next 3-5 years?Speaking of quantitative research, why don’t we look at how bellwether Fortune 1000 customers are evaluating WAN optimization? According to an ongoing independent, end user survey done by TheInfoPro: Fortune 1000 organizations are much more likely to be using or considering WAN optimization technologies. Among this group, Cisco is cited almost twice as often as Riverbed for being the vendor under consideration.”"During its 18 months in the industry, Cisco WAAS has won the following industry awards and accolades:1. Interop 2008 Best of Show Winner under “”Network and Application Optimization”" category for its application fluency and integration capabilities with Windows Server 2008.2. SearchNetworking Product Leadership Gold Award. Consider these independent end user survey:Network integration and compatibility was one of WAAS’s biggest edges over the competition. Eighty-three percent of our respondents gave it good or excellent marks, which should come as no surprise given Cisco’s dominance throughout many enterprise network architectures.Cisco’s offering also scored well in the management and visibility category: 86% gave it high scores, based on features like its dynamic endpoint auto-discovery, which the company says helps ensure efficient deployments without the need for overlay networks.Many readers noted that they were still trialing WAN management and optimization, but WAAS’s edge in key integration factors and ease-of-use may make it the compelling choice for those getting their feet wet. “”Cisco Wide-Area Application Services are absolutely amazing,”" one reader reported. “”They are the leader again.”"3. Network Computing “”Best Value”" Award. Consider these comments made by the editor:“WAAS performed well, and Cisco has packed a ton of features into its offering for a relatively low price, earning it our Best Value designation. Like the other products in this review, WAAS easily dropped into our network and was running in short order, with little configuration”" – Mike Fratto, Network Computing Given the multiple sources of independent feedback above, we think it’s time for WAN optimization vendors to put away the “”he said, she said”" marketing tactics and accurately represent the true value of their own solutions to the industry and customers — who will be more than smart enough to make the right choices when they have accurate, honest information.Feng”

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  6. Mark Weiner

    Once again I urge Larry to put things into perspective for our readers and customers. Here are a few correction points and additional, balanced information for our readers.Awards and market share — Cisco is within 0.2% of #1 market share within 6 qtrs of shipping product, and has a series of awards over that time period, including double . Gold awards last month. Regarding # of customers, let’s be accurate in our blog postings (there was an error in our and others’ postings). Cisco announced 1000 customers last June, and currently has over 2500 customers globally. Regarding size of deployments, there are dozens with 50-100 sites, and many with over 100 sites in production. Customers can visit the WAAS case study page for information on different use cases at: http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/ps6870/prod_case_studies_list.htmlRegarding giving a negative blogger personal access to those large Cisco production customers — WHY would a vendor (or any smart business person) do that? That clearly is not in the best interest of the customer or Cisco partner, not to mention Cisco itself. Regarding overall innovation, this entire market is innovative and cutting edge, solving real IT problems. That’s why it’s forecast to grow to $2 billion+ dollars by multiple analyst firms (including Gartner) over the next 3 years. Regarding Cisco innovation, there is a lot there — high performing WAN optimization released last 2006, industry leading firewall/IPS support, secure disk encryption (Riverbed followed Cisco’s lead late 2007), fully transparent operation (Riverbed followed Cisco’s lead in early 2008), soft client WAN optim, and now Windows on WAAS (early 2008, no followers yet).Regarding win rates, whether it’s Riverbed executives or overly zealous reseller bloggers on this thread making hard-to-prove statements, the actual numbers speak for themselves — it must be a competitive market or Cisco would not have nearly even market share with other top vendors. Because nearly zero customer opportunities are single vendor oppty’s in this market; all are competitive evaluations. And to reach the revenue #’s posted by analysts, giving away a few units for a customer test environment does not reach that amount.And finally, it is simply ridiculous to describe Cisco’s WAAS solution as “”no luck at all…the failure of WAAS.”" Top market share rankings, awards, large production deployments adoption achieved within 6 quarters — those are signs of clear success. Let’s look at the market with a realistic headset and accept this is a competitive, innovative market sector, which only benefits the customer by giving them more choices. And let’s avoid making these pointed, one-sided comments that are clearly out-of-line and context.”

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  7. Feng Meng

    Checkout these independent end user testimonials about the Cisco WAAS:http://www.networkworld.com/community/node/28002http://searchnetworking.techtarget.com/Feng”

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  8. Feng Meng

    Check out this video, you can see just how easy it is to deploy Cisco WAAS in minutes, and still maintain ease of ongoing operations through network transparency.http://www.mytechwisetv.com/page/WAASFeng MengCisco WAAS Marketing Managerfenmeng@cisco.com

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  9. I don’t know why do you think deploying WAAS is difficult. We have deployed it some times in less than 10 minutes. The first time we deployed WAAS it takes about one hour. As far as I know one hour is not that much. Just use in-line mode and you are done. And it is the first time in history Cisco has a product that is as good (or better) that it’s competitors and it COST LESS.

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