Last year, in order to ensure we were delivering world class professional services for NFV and SDN to our service provider customers, we invested a not insubstantial sum from our services development budget in a market research survey, conducted independently by Ovum, to understand customer needs in this area. As a secondary objective, we sought to  understand Cisco’s perceived position in SDN and NFV professional services across the service provider community – those that are Cisco SDN and NFV customers along with those who are not.  The  good news from our perspective was that Cisco was rated #1!

Ovum NFV SDN PS Rating
Figure 1: Vendor Rating by Service Provider Respondents – Cisco Rated #1

We engaged Ovum to run the survey for us. Cisco was not named as the survey sponsor: we didn’t want any bias in the survey results, positive or negative.  And we really needed to hear the good, the bad and the ugly regarding our capabilities in SDN and NFV professional services.  After having a year to exploit the results within our service development program for the benefit of our customers, it’s now time to share the insights more broadly. Therefore I’ll spend a blog or two explaining some of the survey insights.

Cisco Rated #1

I’ll start with a key finding from Ovum’s research: when it came to service provider expectation of who would play the leading role in NFV and/or SDN professional services, Cisco Services came out as #1 by quite a margin, as the chart above shows.  If, then, you are a service provider where NFV and SDN are major network initiatives (and let’s face, it, which major service providers are not moving forward with NFV and SDN), the independent, unbiased Ovum survey results show that service providers globally have more confidence in Cisco than any other professional services firm – by a good margin.

The Question

The survey question was very important: if you’ve studied the best practices of questionnaire design, you’ll know how important it is to avoid any bias in the question design.  We asked, simply: “Based only on their professional services offerings, who do you expect to play a leading role in NFV or SDN professional services?”  The response was open ended: participants could name anyone that came to mind that they rated for NFV and SDN professional services.  The use of an open ended response ensured that we didn’t bias the respondent.  And respondents could give up to 3 firms in their answer, in priority order. There was plenty room as it were for survey respondents to name their preferred provider – and the good news is that Cisco was, as the diagram above shows, rated #1.

Ovum Survey: Background

After careful deliberation across vendors, we chose industry stalwart Ovum to conduct this market research for us: Ovum are service provider focused, and have a global client base.  Although we were paying for this survey, it was incredibly important to both Cisco Services and Ovum that we received un-biased data: so survey respondents didn’t know that Cisco was funding the survey.  We wanted to hear the real challenges, the truth on their perception of Cisco’s and our competitors’ capabilities in the emerging area of NFV and SDN professional services. And Ovum wouldn’t have it any other way, their integrity was at stake as much as Cisco’s. I hope this will assuage any doubters in the integrity of either organization!

Survey Demographics

Who then responded to our survey? – which, being last year was in a timeframe when SDN and NFV were still pretty new technologies.  Over 50 different providers responded to the Ovum questionnaire, with distribution shown in the figure below.

Service Provider Type - Survey Demographics
Figure 2: Service Provider Type – Survey Demographics


Competitor Names

It’s not Cisco nor my style to name our competitors in a blog such as this.  In Part 2 of this blog, I will provide some description of the “types” of competitor who came up from respondents in this open ended survey question.

Wrapping Up

If you are a service provider organization and working on NFV and/or SDN projects, I hope this blog gives you food for thought as you decide who to engage with for professional services in your NFV/SDN journey.  In a future “Part 2” blog, I’ll give some other commentary on these results and some of the implications.  To make sure you hear about the next part, please follow me on Twitter .





Stephen Speirs

SP Product Management

Cisco Customer Experience (CX)