2008 CRN Channel Champions: Networking

High marks in post-sales support, security and technical training helped propel Cisco Systems Inc. to the pole position over four competing vendors as the 2008 CRN Channel Champion for enterprise networking hardware, excluding wireless LANs and voice. The San Jose, Calif.-based vendor earned an overall satisfaction rating of 75.2. HP placed second in the category with 73.5 points, followed by 3Com in third with a rating of 71.3.

In the technical area, solution providers gave top marks to Cisco's switches and routers for security, scalability and interoperability, with an 89.7 satisfaction rating, narrowly eclipsing HP's 89.6 rating. Cisco posted its biggest win in that area with a 102.6 in product quality and reliability, far ahead of No. 2 HP's 99.7 score in that criterion.

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Cisco swept all but one criterion in the program and support satisfaction area, tying HP in presales support satisfaction but posting a 5.2-point lead over 3Com in post-sales support. Solution providers overwhelmingly declared Cisco the champion of technical training: With a rating of 74.8, Cisco held a nearly 5-point lead over its closest competitor, HP, and a 8-point lead over third-place finisher Nortel Networks.

-- Nathan Eddy

Cisco Systems Inc. won a tight race in the Enterprise Wireless LAN category of the 2008 CRN Channel Champions survey, beating its rivals largely on the strength of the technical merits of its product portfolio and the financial benefits solution providers see from their partnerships with Cisco.

Cisco, San Jose, Calif., nabbed first place with an overall score of 74.8. Palo Alto, Calif.-based Hewlett-Packard Co.'s networking division, ProCurve Networking by HP, placed second with a score of 73.6, while 3Com, Marlborough, Mass., placed third with a score of 72.2.

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Solution providers gave Cisco high marks on technical criteria, where it won first-place finishes in five of six criteria. Its strongest showing came on scalability, where it bested its closest rival, HP ProCurve, by 7.8 points. Its only second-place finish in technical criteria came in price for performance, where 3Com nabbed the victory.

Solution providers said Cisco's strategy of integrating wireless LAN controllers to manage its Aironet access points into its networking devices, particularly its 2800 and 3800 Integrated Services Routers, is one of the vendor's key
differentiators, though pricing still remains a challenge.

-- Jennifer Hagendorf Follett

A good product and excellent channel relationships won the day for Hewlett-Packard, Palo Alto, Calif., a Channel Champ in the systems and network management software category for the family of Business Service Management solutions that includes products formerly branded as OpenView, as well as HP Business Availability Center, HP Network Management Center, HP Operations Center and IT Service Management tools.

HP (78.6 overall rating) had its closest competition from Microsoft, Redmond, Wash. (76.4), a surprising second-place finisher with its relatively new SMS suite of network management tools. The old guard of IBM (72.7), Armonk, N.Y., with Tivoli, and CA, Islandia, N.Y. (68.6), with Unicenter, rounded out the category contestants.

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HP earned its most decisive win in the technical satisfaction set of criteria, which included a 103.6 rating in product quality and reliability. Microsoft was second with a 96.5. But HP, which has built a reputation as one of the strongest friends of the channel since Mark Hurd became CEO, was nearly matched by Microsoft in several criteria for the program and support satisfaction rating.

Tom Lambro, VP of business development at Denali Advanced Integration, Redmond, said HP simply "gets it" when it comes to treating channel partners the right way.

-- Damon Poeter

And the tables have turned. ProCurve Networking by HP took the top spot to become the winner in the 2008 CRN Channel Champions Survey in SMB networking hardware, knocking out last year's winner Cisco Systems Inc. by 1.9 points for its seat at the champions' table.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP ProCurve's overall satisfaction rating was 76.1, enough to beat out Cisco's 74.2. Other vendors weren't too far behind. Rounding out the top seven were Cisco's Linksys division with 70.4, 3Com Corp., 68.8, SonicWall, 67.7, NetGear, 66.8 and D-Link with 66.4.

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It was ProCurve's program and support that pushed it over the top, earning the vendor a three-point victory in the area with 71.6 points over Cisco's 68.6. ProCurve swept that area, taking top honors in all five categories: postsales support, presales support, technical training, efforts to manage channel conflict and relevance of channel programs. ProCurve beat out Cisco by the widest margin, 5.6 points, for its efforts to manage channel conflict.

From a financial perspective, ProCurve also came out on top, taking first-place nods for its product margins, spifs and rebates, and its services attach rates.

-- Andrew R. Hickey

Cisco Systems Inc. dominated the VoIP category of the 2008 CRN Channel Champions Survey, sweeping the category with first-place finishes in all 15 criteria.

Cisco, San Jose, Calif., easily won the category with an overall score of 77.0, taking a commanding 7.2-point lead over its closest competitors. Nortel Networks, Toronto, and Avaya Inc., Basking Ridge, N.J., tied for second place with scores of 69.8, while 3Com Corp., Marlborough, Mass., placed fourth with a score of 68.5.

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Mike Mogavero, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Data Systems Worldwide Inc., a solution provider in Woodland Hills, Calif., said Cisco's strategy to provide a full gamut of VoIP, unified communications and networking products helps him focus on his core competencies as an integrator in a way he couldn't do if he had to pull multiple vendors in to build a solution.

"I can focus on my messaging as an integrator," Mogavero said. "That's a lot easier to do with one vendor. I can't do that if I've got a Frankenstein's monster."

-- Jennifer Hagendorf Follett

Although SonicWall Inc. lost to Cisco Systems Inc. in the technical area, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based vendor took both the program and support, and the financial areas to become the SMB WLANs category winner in the 2008 CRN Channel Champions Survey.

SonicWall pulled down a 74.5 overall satisfaction score to second-place Cisco's 74.0. The field was rounded out by Linksys with 70.2, D-Link Corp., 68.5 and NetGear with 68.0.

The only criterion SonicWall won in the technical area was management and configuration features. But the vendor took three of five criteria in program and support and swept the financial area to solidify its lead in the category.

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Joe Maxim, manager of IT relations for New York-based solution provider Primary Consulting Services Ltd., said he values the dependability of SonicWall's support system. "You open a support case and within an hour they're getting back to you with how they can help you."

Maxim said SonicWall's service attachments allow his company to boost profit margins. "They've taken steps to help the resellers that are SonicWall-certified more than someone just logging onto CDW and buying the same appliance," he said. "That is very beneficial to all of our clients."

-- Nathan Eddy