If you were to look only at the figure of the Campus LAN Magic Quadrant in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Campus LAN (Global) 2006 report, you might surmise that Cisco received nothing but plaudits from the analyst who wrote the report.
After all, Cisco is situated in the prime real estate of the quadrant, up and to the right, all alone in the "leaders" section, a clear distance apart from "challenger" HP ProCurve, "visionary" Foundry Networks, and several other vendors of LAN equipment.
When you read the report, however, a different picture emerges. In fact, Gartner sharply criticizes Cisco, all but recommending that enterprise buyers of campus LAN solutions look elsewhere to address their requirements.
At the outset of his comments on Cisco, Gartner analyst Mark Fabbi mentions that Cisco’s leadership position "has declined slightly across a number of fronts during the past 18 months." He then points out that rise of Asian vendors in developing markets has caused Cisco’s global LAN port share dropped below 60 percent for the first time since 2003.
Then he really takes his shots at the networking titan. Says Fabbi:
Cisco lags behind the market in support for emerging convergence standards, offering indifferent support for other major players in the IPT/convergence marketplace. . . . We also see evidence in the market that Cisco is losing interest in accounts where it has lost the IP voice business to a competitor. Cisco’s public goals of "collapsing the stack" and becoming a primary supplier of all collaborative applications combined with a lack of support for other vendors’ communication applications indicate that Cisco is heading toward becoming a vertically integrated voice/collaboration application vendor. It is not appropriate for a LAN infrastructure supplier to limit the choice of applications that it supports on the network — but we are starting to see this in Cisco’s approach.
Fabbi also criticizes Cisco’s security direction, especially in the area of network-access control (NAC). Moreover, he writes that the "Catalyst 65xx is now showing its age," and that large enterprise customers are becoming frustrated with the Cisco flagship switch because of it lack of port density and high-speed interfaces, as well as because of its "inefficient physical design."
The market analyst concludes that Cisco retains its position as the "primary influencer in the market," but that "significant cracks are showing in its position for the first time." Cisco’s premium price, he writes, is being exposed by innovative competitors, such as Extreme Networks, Foundry Networks, and Nortel.
Finally, Fabbi offers this damning passage:
Enterprises that expect to have a choice of voice and collaborative applications should start exploring alternatives until Cisco has clearly demonstrated a return to its heritage of adding value for all converged applications and systems. Failure to do this will lead enterprises to the inevitable conclusion that Cisco is migrating away from being a network infrastructure provider. Cisco must reverse these trends before the broad market realizes that alternative vendors actually represent a stronger and more broadly applicable alternative in some situations.
What’s surprising is not the commentary, which is largely accurate, but that it came from Gartner, which is partly responsible for the industry adage that "one never gets fired for buying Cisco."
It’s also partly surprising that Gartner accords Cisco such pride of place in the quadrant diagram while giving it a veritable drubbing in the text of the report. Then again, Gartner probably would cite the weighted evaluation criteria for the report, which includes factors such as overall viability (as a going concern), sales execution, marketing execution, and others that tend to favor whales over minnows.
Those who just glance at the Magic Quadrant diagram will come away with the impression that Gartner is once again bestowing its unreserved blessing on Cisco Systems. Those who look closer, and read the report in its entirely, will come away with a markedly different understanding.
Is Cisco’s long-held mastery of market influencers, such as Gartner, beginning to wane? If so, there could be renewed hope for Cisco’s data-networking rivals such as HP ProCurve, Foundry, and Extreme. It’s no wonder, in fact, that Foundry made this report available on its website.