Sean’s Obsessions

Sean Walberg’s blog

Apparently I’m a Cisco Bigot

About 8 months ago a vendor referred to me as a Cisco bigot in an email that went to his SE, who mistakenly forwarded it to me as part of a reply to something else. I got a good laugh out of it, though the vendor was very apologetic. As the company I work for heads into a major VoIP purchasing decision, other people have used the phrase. Am I a Cisco bigot?

Do I prefer Cisco? Absolutely. I’ve been doing networks for coming on 6 years now, and I’ve yet to run into a company that impresses me as much as Cisco. The gear is full of features and always current. Yes, I’ve run into my share of bugs. I’ll happily run the latest T-train IOS (ie bleeding edge code) if it has the features I need, full well knowing I may be opening a case with TAC (support) about a bug. I’ve run into many bugs in everything from ATM to routing protocols to VPNs. In my latest project doing backup VPNs, I ran into two at the same time, called “Excessive replication of locally generated multicast on mGRE” and “IPsec connectivity failure during re-key for complex setup”. Big mouthfuls there, but I was implementing some really cool features that I haven’t seen anywhere else.

What separates Cisco from everyone else, in my mind, is the support. As a customer, I have access to almost everything that TAC has, including the ability to look up bugs and get a report on the status. And I know the guy on the other end of the phone is motivated to help me because his success at Cisco is determined by the Bingo card I get at the end of the case – my satisfaction with the resolution – not by how quickly he could get me off the phone. (are you listening, Checkpoint?) To this end, I’ve had my first line guy talk directly to developers. It’s all about customer satisfaction, not just on the front line techs, but down to the guys cutting the code. I also find it interesting that the pre-sales engineers are bonused according to the performance of all the SEs in the region, encouraging them to collaborate on proposals.

I can’t speak any higher of TAC than the folks at Slashdot, in their Blow-by-Blow Account of the OSDN Outage. In a nutshell, not only did the engineer fix the problem, he did it by logging into the customer’s gear – both Cisco and non-Cisco – and correcting the problem. I’m told that on a P1 case (ie serious network outage) senior execs start getting paged if it isn’t resolved in 4 hours.

I don’t think I’m as much of a bigot as I am an evangelist. Jeremy wrote about being an evangelist several times. I’m a customer who believes strongly in the product. I think it is the best stuff out there, not because most of my expertise is in it, but because I have confidence that the company will take care of me and my company.

Would I recommend Cisco over anything, sight unseen? No way. PIX has some way to go before it equals Check Point, and while I’m sure their storage stuff is great, I’d want to have a storage guy vet it out first. However their routing and switching are top notch, their voice equipment unparalleled in flexibility, and they have some slick stuff on the services side (load balancers especially).

Cisco’s marketing slogan used to be The network works. Period. As a network guy, that is what my employer wants to hear from me. Would I want a company behind me that thought any different?


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