2012 Channel Champions: Enterprise Networking Hardware

Victory remains sweet for Cisco, a perennial winner in the category of Enterprise Networking Hardware, and, once again, the overall champion--though it didn't come easy.

Cisco spent much of 2011 in restructuring mode, following several quarters' worth of disappointing earnings and the criticism of a partner community that had grown weary of bold proclamations of "50 adjacencies."

Partners simply wanted a slim, trim, fighting-shape Cisco to refocus on the core networking and growth categories that make the company's value proposition so compelling and its go-to-market strategy a winner.

Overall, the Channel Champs scorecard results reveal that Cisco is still a formidable leader. It captured top marks over immediate enterprise networking rivals Juniper and HP Networking--both aggressively trying to take share--in all but one technical subcategory criterion, price for performance, and all but two channel support subcategory criteria, general availability of technical training, and education and enablement.

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However, it suffered in the financial category it outright dominated in last year's results, ceding several criteria--including product margins, SPIFs and rebates, increase in sales and the overall financial factors rating--to Juniper, and dropping sizable point differentials from where it was in the financial subcategory criteria a year ago.

A cause for concern? Not so much, said Jim Sherriff, senior vice president, U.S. and Canada partner organization at Cisco, who reiterated that Cisco has done a good job responding to partner concerns and has adjusted its programs--and made critical investments--based on partner feedback.

"Ultimately, it comes down to our commitment to technology innovation and partner profitability," Sherriff said. "Over the years, we've spent considerable energy listening to our partners. And as a result, we get great feedback from our partners that helps us understand the health of their business, the environment in which they operate, and their key care-abouts."