If there are big battles to be won in networking, one of them will be in SMB hardware, where a small galaxy of vendors are duking it out with varying degrees of value proposition, channel prowess and product strength.
Adtran won this category last year, but although it put up a tough fight--taking the Partnership category--it ultimately was Cisco that returned to the top of the pile, outdoing five rivals by a differential as high as 8 points in the Product Innovation category, and notching a narrow win in the Support category.
The SMB gains for the vendor are real, said Andrew Sage, Cisco's vice president of worldwide small-business sales: "We're testing what partners and customers react to the best."
"Last year's combination of product enhancements, more competitive pricing, and special zero percent financing really helped us close new business," said Ryan Halper, owner of Cynnex Networks, a Seattle-based Cisco partner. "There's still plenty of room for additional strides to be made in SMB, and we are pleased that Cisco continues to engage with us collaboratively in the ongoing effort to better serve this market."
Dan Schwab, co-president of D&H Distributing, said Cisco's all-out SMB offensive was winning it new business and new partners.
"They have tremendous traction in VAR recruitment and deeper penetration," Schwab said. "I think it took multiple quarters for the message to get out there and for them to test the water in the small-business community. But they're really at the point where they're hitting critical mass with that."
Adtran's close scores--and its Partnership category victory--proved it can stay neck and neck with Cisco; it remains beloved by the channel. Also worth noting: a strong ARC showing from upstart Ruckus Wireless, which was close to Cisco and Adtran in every category, often outpacing more established competitors such as D-Link, Hewlett-Packard and Netgear.