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Solution providers said the biggest beneficiaries from the Cisco supply chain crisis weren’t only gray market sellers, but also competitors like SonicWall, Juniper Networks and HP.
Among Cisco competitors that deliberately marketed against its supply chain woes, VARs and distributors frequently cited SonicWall as the biggest noisemaker. That’s something SonicWall’s Marvin Blough, vice president of worldwide sales, doesn’t deny. “We saw an opportunity, and went after it,” he said.
“Here’s the thing we found: If your channel doesn’t hear from you what’s going on, you run into a lot of trouble because they do have alternatives and they look at alternatives. That’s true for any vendor,” Blough said. “Whenever the market-share leader creates a void like that, every other vendor is looking at how they can take advantage of it.”
According to Blough, SonicWall saw its inbound calls from customers and channel partners spike as Cisco’s product shortages continued. Partners who carried both Cisco and SonicWall were the first to inquire, Blough said, but plenty of VARs who hadn’t previously carried SonicWall were burning up the phone lines, too. Blough declined to give specific numbers, but said, “The majority of partners that we’ve recruited in the past few years have been Cisco VARs.”
SonicWall didn’t create a specific program to lure Cisco VARs so much as its account reps met with Cisco partners and tailored individual plans to fast-track their training on SonicWall gear.
“We knew that the biggest thing we had to do was get them smart and educated on the SonicWall product line as quickly as possible,” Blough said. “We did not come out and offer free training to every Cisco reseller; that would have been almost a slap in the face to our partners already committed to SonicWall. But it ended up being a situation where you had a Cisco partner you know who’s committed to starting a relationship with SonicWall, and you sat down and tailored something specific to each partner.”
SonicWall was not alone in courting Cisco partners. Distribution executives confirmed to CRN that HP and Juniper weren’t exactly idle.
Juniper isn’t known as a saber-rattler. (“We are aggressively promoting our product and seeing strong growth as a result,” said Blaine Raddon, vice president of channel sales and general business at Juniper, in a statement e-mailed to CRN.) But, as one solution provider put it, it isn’t necessarily warm and fuzzy, either, and has made sure some of its recent, channel-friendly promotions -- such as “Switch to Juniper,” the 60 percent discounting switch trade-up program it launched in mid-April -- are in play.
“No, Juniper doesn’t make a whole lot of waves. That’s not their style,” said the solution provider, a national VAR that carries Cisco and Juniper. “But if you were at the Juniper [J-Partner conference in Phoenix in May], you know. They made sure, and they’ve continued to make sure, partners know that they aren’t struggling with this stuff at all and the timing’s right for another good look at Juniper.”
Even if partners didn’t have to turn to alternate suppliers to fix deals held up by Cisco shortages, they kept that option as a back-pocket trump card.
“Particularly in switches and firewalls, we’re a partner with Juniper because we hold a couple of contracts that require us to do break-fix maintenance,” said Annese’s Healy. “It would have been easy for us to do it.”
At the very least, most solution providers told CRN they had a plan: loaners from Cisco, spot fixes until they could get their hands on the right equipment at the right place, or slotting in products from other vendors in hopes of remedying a problem.
“This did open opportunities for some of the ProCurve stuff, because what HP is going through is rebranding, and they’re gaining a lot of credibility in the space,” said the vice president of a Cisco Silver partner, who asked not to be identified. “HP has a pretty good product set now, and you know as well as I do that salespeople will take the path of least resistance.”
Mark Fabbi, vice president, distinguished analyst and leader of enterprise network infrastructure research at Gartner, puts it another way: The difference in 2010 is that Cisco is no longer the only game in town.
“The attitude out in the market used to be, “I’m frustrated, but I’m beholden to Cisco.” Now there’s frustration followed by ‘I’m going to find something else to do,’ ” Fabbi said. “The difference this time is that Cisco sits in a much more competitive environment, and there is an increasing number of customers that say, ‘I just can’t run my business this way,’ and have turned away from Cisco.”
Solution providers, too, are broadening their horizons, especially with competitors like HP, Juniper and Brocade having emerged as viable data center and networking alternatives.
“We’re seeing loyal Cisco channels broaden out,” Fabbi said. “There are certainly players that have been predominantly Cisco reseller shops starting to expand their kit bag. I see it more at the end of things, with customers, but I know that resellers are also starting to respond.”
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