This week Cisco did something very strange. Something that strays very far from their usual path. They actually went out and bashed their largest competitor, Juniper Networks, by name. This is not something you’d expect such a big company to do. Not only did they just simply call Juniper out, they actually made an entire website.
Check it out: www.overpromisesunderdelivers.net
(2019 Edit – Obviously that site no longer works, however archive.org is a wonderful thing. Here’s a mirror: https://web.archive.org/web/20111008044350/http://www.overpromisesunderdelivers.net/ Also, here’s a direct embed to the pizza video)
Now, granted the pizza video is pretty amusing, the entire thing just screams of desperation. Is Cisco really doing this poorly? This past year, they’ve had their “Good Enough Network” campaign, directed squarely at HP (though they certainly didn’t name them – that would give HP credibility it doesn’t deserve).
Cisco also came up with their new marketing term: “Junipered”. According to the links that Cisco’s various Twitter accounts have been spamming, Junipered means “to be promised a service or a product that was not delivered”. Again, this might have been a decent PR angle for Cisco if they had followed suit with their “Good Enough Network” campaign, and simply stated to not trust a company that over-promises and under-delivers. While it’s not accurate, it would at least be a credible PR angle.
So lets talk for a moment about the “over promised and under delivered” thing. Cisco’s PR stunt website mentions two key things, Project Stratus and QFabric, and 100GigE modules for the MX series routers. First of all, I think Cisco (and apparently many others in the Twitterverse) are confused about the difference between a project and a product.
You see, a project announcement (for example, Project Stratus) is a definition of a plan, or goal. A project. Something being worked on. Project Stratus was announced years ago, in 2009. Since then, it has changed and evolved. Once it became ready, it became a product. QFabric was announced in February of 2011. If you read the press release for QFabric, you’ll notice a key piece: “The QF/Interconnect and QF/Director will be available for order in Q3”. More on this in a bit.
I think the reason Cisco is confused by this, is the fact that they rarely, if ever, announce projects. They only announce products. And even then, usually only when they are very close to shipping. This means Cisco doesn’t PROMISE anything, which means it’s near-impossible for them to under-deliver on a promise that doesn’t exist. So let’s make this clear: Cisco is bashing Juniper for being forward-thinking, and letting their customers know what’s in the pipeline. Bravo.
The other product mentioned is the 100GigE modules for the MX series routers. Cisco’s white paper, entitled “Why Cisco, Not Juniper”, from their “OPUD” site (as I will now refer to it) states that “Juniper promised 100 Gigabit Ethernet on MX-series edge routing products two-and-a-half years ago. It’s still not available.” Yes, it is true that Juniper announced 100GigE in 2009. They also announced 100GigE specifically for the MX series in Nov 2010. So in fact, it hasn’t even been a year, yet.
It should also be mentioned that there are already Juniper 100GigE interfaces in live use for customers who require it, for example Verizon, and the UK’s JANET. So while technically not available still, they are most certainly in use.
But wait… what else does Cisco say in their white paper? “Cisco promises and delivers: Cisco announced 100 Gigabit Ethernet on the ASR 9000 edge routing platform in June 2011 and will be shipping in Q4 of CY2011.” Wait a second. They “delivered” by saying it will ship NEXT QUARTER? Are they serious? Perhaps they invented a time machine? Now THAT would get their stocks out of the gutter!
Clearly you see the pattern here.
But the point of this blog post isn’t to argue with the FUD and lies that Cisco is spreading, it’s to comment on the childish PR stunt. So let’s get back to that, shall we?
Now after all of this nonsense began, Twitter was abuzz with comments about it, mostly negative. Even the Cisco supporters who drink the koolaid daily were talking about how it was a pathetic move. None of the posts were more telling than the one by Aaron Paxson:
Wow. Not much else you can say. Cisco, what have you done?
We also made up the #ciscoed twitter hashtag. The funny part is that Cisco actually started using it too. Unfortunately they managed to get a definition put on tagdef with their FUD, and because of the legion of pass4sure’d CCNAs, it’s an uphill battle to dethrone their definition. Some of the best ones are as follows:
@ccie15672: You know you’ve been #ciscoed when you find a bug and Cisco tells you to buy more routers or to not try to use that feature
@IPv6Freely You know you’ve been #ciscoed when your TAC call ends with them asking you what you did.
@jjjans You know you’ve been #ciscoed when the answer to a best practice implementation is that there are multiple ways and here are the whitepapers
@Metacortex2 #ciscoed: a companies actions that leave you feeling like you’re back in elementary school
And my personal favourite:
@JUNOSRob You know you made it when you get a whole domain dedicated to you from your biggest competitor. #ciscoed
The best part in all of this was that I managed to update the definition of “Junipered” on Urban Dictionary, and Cisco and their followers keep RT’ing it. Amazing.
Then I noticed Cisco’s newest blog post: “Trust, Relationships and Reputation: How Cisco Differs from the Competition”. I posted my thoughts on the PR stunt, and I got a very generic bunch of marketing babble from Rob Lloyd, going on about basically they must be doing things right because they had 16,000 customers at Cisco Live. He also rambled on with some supposed statistics about their customers. Worthless. But then I got an email that there had been a new reply to my post, and wow… pure comedy. Somebody had replied talking about how Juniper only gained market share because they made acquisitions. No, seriously, that was really his argument. I just mentioned words like “airespace”, “Catalyst” and “PIX”.
Cisco’s director of PR, David McCulloch replied with a whole load of nonsense about QFabric being late, and some more marketing babble. I’m not going to re-post it all here, go see for yourself. I also posted a reply, but it didn’t make it through moderation (I can tell, because it no longer says “your comment is awaiting moderation” anymore, and my comment is gone). But hey, I happened to screenshot my comment, figuring that might happen.
All while this was happening, I was having a pretty funny chat with a guy on Twitter. It wasn’t until about halfway through that I realized this was actually David McCulloch as well. I took a screenshot of this conversation too, as it’s pretty funny.
So what was Juniper’s response to all this? Not much, from the PR department (which is a good thing). They simply had this to say:
And after this, Juniper did the absolute best thing they could have done: they released the remaining pieces of QFabric. This was no surprise, considering the QF/I and QF/D have both been on the September price list for weeks (which I summarized in a recent blog post). But what makes this such a big deal? Scroll up, and check when Juniper promised QFabric to be shipping…. That’s right, they said Q3 2011. Over-promised and under-delivered? Hmm.. nope. Announced in February, and delivered exactly on time. The best part of the announcement was Juniper’s use of the #junipered hashtag that Cisco had made up:
Hilarious. Cisco, insert foot in mouth.
I just have to wonder what will happen from here. Will Cisco’s PR person who thought this was a good idea be let go? I mean, it’s not every day you see a multi-billion dollar company make an absolute fool of themselves.
“But what about the comics?”, I keep hearing. For those who don’t know, Juniper once had a (really bad and kinda creepy) series of cartoons they used in their marketing materials. Here’s my favourite:
Yes, they are bad. But still kinda funny. In fact, the most amusing part about them is the fact that they’re still pretty darn accurate. So, how is the latest Cisco PR stunt worse? Well, Juniper grew up. These cartoons were done at a time when Juniper was a small company, with very little market share, outside of the service provider world. You almost expect this kind of marketing from an upstart company. Certainly not from the 800lb gorilla of the industry. As an article posted by Stefan Fouant (@sfouant) mentioned: “The rule of thumb is never compare down because it degrades your position.”
All this PR stunt has managed to do is make Cisco look really desperate. They know their market share is slipping, their stocks are in the gutter, and Wall St has been calling for the head of their CEO for years. Brandon Bennett (@brandonrbennett) linked to a blog post by Luc Ceuppens which made a lot of sense. Actually, this sums up the entire thing nicely:
Well said, sir. All this PR stunt really does is acknowledge that Juniper has grown into a significant threat to their market share. Gone are the days of Cisco reigning through familiarity. The old adage of “Nobody ever got fired by buying Cisco” is dead. There are now options, and better options in many cases, and Cisco knows it and is getting desperate knowing that their lack of any real innovation for so long, and spending too much time working on things like Flip cameras, is starting to catch up to them.
I should probably also add a disclaimer here. I want to make it very clear that I’m not necessarily saying Juniper is better than Cisco, or anything like that. I’m just making commentary on the nonsense FUD that happened this week. As I stated to Juniper employees in private conversations, if they had done something as colossally stupid as what Cisco did this week, I’d be all over them too. They responded with “We’d expect nothing less.”