Wishful Thinking: The Investment Protection Edition
It seems that is it suddenly popular to attack Cisco on the topic on investment protection–that we are the “rip and replace guys”. It’s Friday–I am in a good mood, so I’ll offer up a piece of friendly advice to the product marketers out there: this is not such a great idea, since the assertion does not even stand up to passing scrutiny. The ironic thing is that these assertions often come from the most egregious practitioners of rip and replace.Let’s face it, the Catalyst 6500 is the poster child for investment protection. It has been shipping since 1999 and is still happily chugging along. In the time the Catalyst 6500 has been shipping, we have one competitor who released 17 different chassis in under 9 years to compete against the Catalyst. Their average product lifecycle is 17 months and according their own annual reports, they expect a product lifecycle of 18-25 month. At that rate, it seems like they might be the ones who want to bundle their switches with a forklift. We have another competitor who is doing a bit better with a chassis life of about 42 months, but, they are struggling with keeping their supervisors and line cards compatible and interoperable with each other. On the other hand, a you can upgrade a Catalyst 6500 you bought in 1999 to run the latest networking technologies today. Think about that–we shipped a chassis in 1999 that can be upgraded to run 10GbE today–a protocol that was not published until three years after the chassis shipped. Thomas Scheibe, our product marketing director for the Catalyst 6500 told me a customer paid him the ultimate compliment the other day during a briefing. He had presented the Catalyst 6500 product roadmap through 2012 and the customer was giving him some good natured grief about not sharing any plans beyond 2012. Think about the level of investment protection our customers expect from us for their 10 year old chassis–the three years between now and 2012 represents the a average product lifecycle for our switching competitors.And lest you think you might have easier pickings on the storage networking side, think again. A customer who bought an MDS director-class switch in 2002 can upgrade it to the latest protocols and features available today. The competition? Well, they kinda have an interesting story. In their attempts to keep up with Cisco’s growth in the storage networking space, they have end-of-lifed two of their own director-class switches. To maintain market share, they have also acquired a number of other companies and promptly end-of-lifed their switches too, forcing the acquired customers to upgrade–in fact, they have end-of-lifed seven different directors in the last five years. And to get their latest features? Yep, another chassis upgrade.A related assertion I see folks trying is that Cisco doesn’t innovate because their switches are X years old. I will tell you, that as a company, we are quite pleased to see a data center filled with dusty Cisco chassis. It means we have given our customers the ability to add capability and capacity based on their needs. It means we respect the investment customers have made with us and it means our engineers are smart enough to protect that investment. Every one of those Catalyst 6500s can be upgraded support 10Gb, every one of those MDS directors can upgraded to support 8Gb FC, but on the customer’s timeline. The Nexus 7000 draws on the same heritage–it would have been easy to say the net-gen platform is here, we are EOL-ing the other one, but we did not do that–we maintain and invest in both platforms and help customers figure out when it makes sense to move. And, like its predecessors, it is designed to support protocols that will not be finalized for another couple of years yet. Even with broader solutions like unified fabric, you will see, our approach is explicitly designed to protect the existing customer investment–its simply what we do.