At this week's Wikibon Peer Incite discussing network architectures beyond spanning tree, Gerry Murphy shared that historically, the networking business has learned to live with the phenomenon of over-subscription, and its technology transitions have mainly come about through attrition.
Cisco has brilliantly used this dynamic to extend its dominance in the business by delivering incremental improvements and selling futures. This practice has frustrated competitors and while incredibly successful is beginning to open cracks in Cisco's armor in increasingly large niches such as cloud services.
In the view of the Wikibon community, Cisco must put less emphasis on blue-sky visions with partial solutions delivery (e.g. Data Center 3.0) and be more clear and succint on what customers can do today, providing roadmaps on how to get from Point A (today) to Point B (tomorrow).
At the same time, Cisco competitors need to move beyond Cisco-bashing and articulate a value proposition that specifically relates to reducing the number of network layers and improving utilization. As well, competitors need to lay out a clear vision that enables virtualization. A key issue for such players is differentiation through vision and execution. Vendors need to focus on their respective strengths, which include software tools, automation, and orchestration. The industry needs to tell a story that is more integrated and leverages its technology prowess beyond straight networking (i.e. convergence).
Action Item: Convergence is changing the key management points in the network (e.g. servers are doing more and software value add is a huge opportunity). Suppliers need to pick a path (e.g. commodity or value add; small or large, etc.), deliver a vision around virtualization, and provide tangible products that deliver value today. The most useful visions for practitioners are those that provide specific advice and proof points on how to transition to next-gen network architectures, safely.