Choosing Sides In Technology

Sometimes There Is Too Much Choice

Sometimes There Is Too Much Choice

I started out the evening writing a post on Aruba ClearPass, but this has been weighing on my mind lately, so I figured Aruba ClearPass can wait.

It seems that the Internet is filled with all sorts of opinions as it relates to all things IT. Shocking, isn’t it? ;)

We squabble over all sorts of technical things that mean a great deal to us as IT folks, but probably not a whole lot to the people who actually benefit from the use of those systems. Yes, I am referring to the end users. What do they care about? They care about their systems working. That’s it. They have their own jobs to worry about. This can be confirmed by the fact that end users almost never call up the IT department or fire off an e-mail unless there is a problem. Consider exhibit A:

1. Does it work? Great. I can do my job. The IT department isn’t even on my mental radar.

2. Is it broken? Uh oh. Now I can’t do my job as effective, or quite possibly, at all. Time to notify IT to get this thing back up and running.

Now, take that same concept and apply it to something you care about other than IT stuff. Do you like getting paid? I sure do. Two times a month, my paycheck is deposited into my bank account. How often do you think I swing by the accounting department to discuss my paycheck? If you guessed almost never, you are correct. As long as the check shows up, I am happy. If the check doesn’t get deposited, you better believe I am going to reach out to the accounting department and ask about it. If I don’t get paid, I am not going to do any work for that company. It’s a pretty simple relationship I have with them. I don’t really care how the money gets into my bank account as long as it gets there on time.

Does The Solution Matter?

This is a semi-loaded question, because it really depends on your angle. Consider these 5 potential angles:

1. Vendor – You ABSOLUTELY think the solution matters. You make your living off of selling your solution. Why would you not think your stuff is the best? To the vendor, there is a wrong way to do things, and there is their way. The right way. Maybe not for every scenario, and a good vendor will tell you when  they are not the right fit for you. I don’t want to make all IT vendors sound like they are soulless corporations out to take all your money. They aren’t. They are made up of people not unlike the people that work for the companies they sell to or partner with. They just chose a side. They’ll root for their team as long as they are a part of that vendor organization. I don’t think most people go to work for vendors hoping they fail. They believe in their message. You’ll find many idealists in the vendor ranks. No problem with that. That’s what it takes to make an impact in the marketplace.

The vendor will be ready to talk you out of every other vendor’s solution but theirs. Maybe that salesperson sitting in front of you isn’t well versed in their competition and can only spout their own talking points. Maybe they are hoping the potential customer isn’t savvy enough to counter their pitch with an informed view of that particular solution segment of the market. Or maybe, the vendor has brought in one of their specialized engineers/evangelists/sales superstar to answer all your questions around the competitor’s solutions. Maybe they do it without stretching the truth at all and just lay it all out there for you the end customer, to decide.

The vendor is in this battle to close the deal. They want the sale. Nothing wrong with that at all. Some do it better than others. Some do it more ethically than others. Some don’t even have to try that hard since their technology is well known and respected.

2. Reseller – The solution MAY matter. It depends on who they sell for. It also depends on whether or not the vendor walked them into this deal. I can tell you that if a vendor walks us into a deal(I work for a reseller), I will do my absolute best to ensure I ONLY pitch their solution(s). The only time I will veer off message is if a customer asks me a very direct question regarding a competitor or about that particular vendor that brought me. I won’t lie. Period. If I don’t know, then I say I don’t know. I’m not going to bite the hand that feeds me though and offer up alternate vendors that my company may sell for right in front of the vendor that walked us into the deal. That’s just bad business.

What if a reseller only sells a solution for a single vendor in the segment of IT you are looking in to make a purchase? What solution do you think is going to be pitched? If you guessed the one they sell for, you are correct. Consider something like switching. My company sells for several switching vendors. While I may LIKE other vendors, I am not going to be pitching switches from a vendor I don’t sell for and tell the customer to go to another reseller to make the purchase. Does that seem like I am boxed in? To a certain extent, yes. However, if none of the solutions my company sells for are going to be a fit for that particular customer, I have no problems telling them that. My experience is that most vendors(I’d say 9 out of 10) can solve 90% of the customer’s problems. It’s the corner cases that really involve a lot of head scratching and pondering.

To sum up the reseller, the solution matters if they sell that within that segment of IT. If you were in the market for a new car and went to a Ford dealership, what kind of car do you think they are going to sell you? That’s how business works. They have a select set of product, and their job is to move that product. I will add that provided that product can solve the customer’s problem, there is nothing wrong with that. You cannot be all things to all people. Try it, and you’ll find that you will be good at nothing.

3. Vendor Bigots(Pro) – Some people go all in with a vendor and don’t necessarily even work for that vendor. They exist in the reseller market as well as on the end customer side. No matter what, their first choice is always their favorite vendor. They’ll go to great lengths to ensure their favorite is the vendor of choice. Sometimes they have VERY valid reasons for doing so. Other times, they just like that vendor more than the others. The solution matters to them as long as it is their vendor of choice. All other solutions are inferior in their mind. Again, might be a valid reason based on solid research and experience, or it might be out of sheer stubbornness or ignorance.

4. Vendor Bigots(Con) – Some people hate certain vendors with the fire of a thousand suns. Maybe they had some really bad experiences. Maybe they hate the market leaders(sales numbers). Maybe they hate the small upstarts that are clamoring for any market share they can find. Maybe they are turned off by the arrogance of certain vendors(real or perceived). It could be any number of things. In my experience, the vendor bigots of the “con” persuasion tend to hate the bigger vendors and feel like they are getting ripped off and sold bad technology. They generally have some vague story about a perceived evil that was done to them or their network by the big bad vendor. Might be a valid reason, or might be paranoia.

Note – In my experience, vendor bigots of any persuasion tend to be more on the uninformed side when it comes to alternative view points. I have learned in my almost 20 years of IT that exposure to other vendors is a good thing. For example, I am currently deploying an Aruba Instant solution for a customer and it is my first time working with this technology using more than a single access point. I love it. It just works. It might not have all the features that other solutions have, but for this particular deployment, it meets all of the customer’s needs. Prior to this, I had a few “go-to” vendors for similar solutions, but now my eyes have been opened even more. That isn’t to say that I will always favor Aruba Instant for every similar deployment. It simply means that I can help a customer make a more informed choice. It makes me a better engineer, and it helps any of my company’s customers make a better decision when it comes to this type of technology.

5. The “Just Make It Work” People – These people don’t really care about the logo on the box or software provided it works. That’s all they care about. They may or may not be sensitive to price. If their pain is great enough, price isn’t the most important issue, provided you can stop the 2am phone calls from rousing them from their slumber.

What Is The RIGHT Solution?

The one that works. Period.

While that seems like a pretty straightforward answer, it is a little more complicated than that.

1. Price – As much as I wish it didn’t, price matters.
2. Vendor ecosystem – Is there information available from the vendor on the product in more detail than a data sheet?
3. Supportability – Can my in house/outsourced staff manage this solution, or is it too complicated?
4. Life expectancy - Is the vendor going to be around in a year and will this solution last long enough to meet my needs in the future?

There are probably more variables, but those are the big ones I run across.

What’s Wrong With Preference?

Nothing at all. It is human nature to prefer certain things over others.

Consider the various political rhetoric that is spewed on Twitter and Facebook on a daily basis. Some people have a preference for a particular political party and have their feet in concrete. No matter what, it is always the “other” side that is wrong. If you were to ask some of the zealots out there, they would tell you that they are reasonable. They are open minded. They consider all the variables and amazingly, they are always on the correct side of things. If you could just open your eyes and see things their way, you would be better off. They look in the mirror and see a reasonable and informed person. The “other” side is full of morons and idiots. They are the lemmings. The dummies. The followers. If always falling on one side of the coin makes you think of yourself as “independent”, then you are delusional and arrogant. Probably beyond any sort of help, to be quite honest.

Now take the above rant and apply it to technology. The same person exists, but with an eye towards technology. I have always maintained that the esoteric nature of what we do in IT can breed arrogance. Couple that with a social media platform from which to preach our message and we become convinced that we have the answers to all the questions you may have. If you could just see it our way……

Preference in and of itself isn’t bad. The world would be a very boring place if we all chose the same things all of the time. I find though, that my familiarity with certain solutions breeds preference. That doesn’t mean we make poor choices when we choose solutions we prefer based on our experience, or based on who is signing our paychecks. As long as the solution gets the job done, does it really matter? No. If the customer is happy to pay Cisco to get a datacenter full of Nexus switches, let them. If the customer would rather pay another vendor to use their switches instead of Cisco, let them. It is their network. They will succeed or fail based on their choices.

I have seen quite a few customers make decisions that my company recommended against and be perfectly fine. I have also seen the opposite.

Is This Post Over Yet?

Yes. In summary, the customer will make the decision they feel is best for them. You may not like the decision, but it is theirs to make. Maybe it was uninformed, or maybe it was done after careful consideration of the alternatives.

Additionally, all vendors have very smart people developing and selling solutions to end customers. Resellers and end customers also employ very smart people as well. You won’t always know all the reasons people make the choices they do when it comes to technology. However, if you simply ask them WHY, they may just surprise you. The things you are passionate about when it comes to your solution of choice may not be a big deal to that other person. Or, by engaging them in a professional manner, you may just be able to sway their opinion more in your favor. Technology is always changing. Vendors come and go. Architectures come and go. Understanding WHY you hold a certain opinion will help you more than being stubborn and refusing to admit you may be wrong. We’re all wrong at some point.

Now I am off to go find another knock-down, drag out, technology fight on social media. I may even participate, hoping you will just see it my way. :)

Posted in career, selling | 5 Comments

How Does This Help Aruba Networks?

I was going over my YouTube subscriptions tonight, as I do at least once a week, and came across this video from Aruba Networks:

While I do love watching things go through a shredder, I fail to see the point of this video. It begs the question: Who watches this and would this video change their mind?

In my opinion, this video is aimed at a non-technical buyer. If you make a significant investment in Aruba based on this video, I have serious concerns about your ability to make sound judgements when it comes to technology. That is not to say that the AP-225 from Aruba can’t beat a Cisco 3702 AP in testing. I honestly don’t know. I have access to both AP’s, and I suppose I could run my own independent tests, but to what aim? I certainly don’t have 20 laptops laying around to run my own version of this test, and I am struggling to locate the exact testing methodology used on the Aruba website. The video mentions that Aruba publishes the exact test they performed. I assume it is available somewhere. There was nothing in the video description, so I suppose I have to do even more poking around Aruba’s website to find the testing methodology, if it is indeed there. I looked around for a few minutes, but couldn’t find anything showing how the test was done.

There’s good tech marketing, and there is bad tech marketing. I think this fits the latter. I have a great deal of respect for Aruba, as I think they DO have very good technology on the Wi-Fi side, as well as the extra systems that complement Wi-Fi(ClearPass, Meridian, AirWave, etc…). I just think their time could be better spent adding to the other GOOD videos that they have done in the past that have a lot more technical substance to them.

You are better than this Aruba. I’d have no problems calling out one of your competitors if they were doing the same thing. You want to call out Cisco? Fine. Do it. I welcome that, as I think ALL vendors should have to explain how their products work and let the customers make more informed decisions. You can do that in a better way. How so? Well, I am glad you asked.

Check out the following video from GT Hill at Ruckus where he discusses Cisco’s Clean Air technology and Ruckus’ stance on it. Although the video is a few years old, it still makes you THINK, and THAT is what makes a better informed buyer.

 

What do you think? Am I off base here? Is this how tech marketing is SUPPOSED to work? Are people being influenced by videos like the one shown above from Aruba?

Posted in aruba, ruckus, wireless | 1 Comment

Winning With Ecosystems

Back in 2010, I wrote a post entitled “Competing With Cisco”. It has been a few years, and since I have been in the VAR space for almost 3 years now, I have a slightly different perspective. One thing I didn’t really touch on too much in that article was the powerful ecosystem that surrounds Cisco. I’ve seen it win many deals over the past several years and thought it was worth writing about. Perhaps you already know the power of that ecosystem.

I feel sorry for smaller technology vendors. They face an uphill climb when going against the 800lb gorillas. Interestingly enough, I have often wondered about that phrase. Perusing the Wikipedia article on “800lb gorilla”(That site really does have everything!), it gives a riddle:

Q: Where does an 800lb gorilla sit?
A: Anywhere it wants to.

For people within the greater networking space, that 800lb gorilla is Cisco. It has been that way for a number of years, and will likely continue that trend for years to come. Although there are numerous competitors, time and time again, they fail to take substantial market share from Cisco. While Cisco does make many fantastic products, there are plenty of other vendors that do a better job in certain areas. Occasionally, they achieve market share greater than the competing Cisco product and reach the level of acceptance in the market to where Cisco is not the first name that comes to mind when it pertains to that particular technology. This is not the norm though.

I’ve tried to honestly look at networking vendors over the past several years and determine who had the best technology for each given situation. It wasn’t always like that though. For years, I succumbed to the marketing engine of Cisco and associated networking with that name, and that name alone. I chalk that up to either laziness, lack of knowledge, or both. I made design choices based on my comfort level with Cisco, and didn’t really entertain other vendors because it was just too easy to buy one more Catalyst switch.

Somewhere along the way I changed. I’m not sure I can point to a specific event that made me consider others, but I think a lot of it had to do with simply being exposed to alternatives. This change was similar to the OS wars that I got sucked into back in the 90’s. Windows had dominated, but once I got exposed to Unix and Linux, I begin to see things differently. It wasn’t that I loathed Microsoft. Rather, I begin to see use cases where Unix or Linux was a better fit. Over the years, I began to look more at the technology as opposed to the vendor. I don’t really care too much about cost. I care about solving the problem for the business. Now, I should point out that my experience has been that 9 out of 10 vendors can solve 90% of the problems out there. There are a fair amount of features within a given hardware/software platform that are commoditized. Switching is switching for the most part. I can deploy Brocade, Cisco, HP, or Juniper on most customer networks and they will all work just fine. Same with wireless. Occasionally, there are some compelling differentiators that push one vendor to the top based on the customer needs, but generally speaking, it doesn’t matter to me. They will all work. The big differences between the vendors will show up when you start comparing their ecosystems.

The Death of My Idealism

I’m coming up on my third year in the VAR space. I worked for a smaller VAR several years back, but it ended up being mostly SMB work, and was more break/fix than project based, so I don’t put it on the same level as the work I am doing now. There was far less selling in that role, and I pretty much just cranked out fixes to existing gear as opposed to proposing new solutions. In my current position, there are a couple of things I have had to come to terms with over the past several years.

First, you can’t always sell what you prefer. Nobody can successfully sell for a massive amount of different vendors and be any good at it when it comes time to implement. I have a hard enough time with just a handful of vendors based on the level of technical depth I need to implement things successfully. That’s just the reality I have come to accept. I may be a fan of a certain vendor, but if we don’t sell for them, it doesn’t matter. Maybe we do sell for them, but if they are not our lead vendor for a particular technology, they won’t necessarily be brought to the table on the first pass. However, if another VAR has deal registration with our lead vendor in a given technology, we can always come in with another vendor we sell for in the same space. Deal registration is VERY important as it ensures a much larger discount(usually) to the VAR that pitched that vendor first. This is just the way the business works. As long as each vendor will do the job(see my comment about 9 out of 10 vendors above), I have no problem pitching one over the other. I don’t have to lie and I don’t have to compromise my integrity to sell for a vendor in one deal and sell against them in another deal. They ALL have strengths and they ALL have weaknesses.

Second, the power of the vendor ecosystem is one that CANNOT be ignored. Companies want assurances that their people will be able to support the hardware and software that they buy. The term “support” can mean different things. It may be that they want to use products from a vendor that is known to them. They may want to be able to find more people to hire that have worked on that particular equipment. They may be concerned about enough information being available out there in the way of documentation, forums, books, etc. It is this second point that I want to focus on.

What Does An Ecosystem Bring?

A good ecosystem brings tremendous power when it comes to closing a deal with a customer. Since Cisco holds the largest market share in networking, there are a massive amount of resources out there in the way of their ecosystem when compared to other vendors. Here’s a short list:

1. Large number of resellers(VAR’s).
2. Certification programs
3. Books
4. Message forums
5. Third-party companies that enhance Cisco products
6. Conferences
7. Design guides
8. A MASSIVE marketing machine that produces enormous amounts of videos, blog posts, white papers, etc.
9. Large numbers of networking professionals who are comfortable with their products.

Let’s break down each of those items:

1. Large number of resellers(VAR’s) – The sheer number of Cisco resellers out there means that their products get mentioned to customers all over the world on a regular basis. In my particular city(Nashville,TN), I can name at least 10 different VAR’s that sell for Cisco. That’s a lot of sales reps and a lot of engineers out preaching the Cisco gospel message on a regular basis. Other vendors might only have 1 or 2 VAR’s in the Nashville,TN area selling for them. Those other VAR’s might also sell for Cisco, so it gets to be pretty tough for them. Back in 2012, I had the pleasure of attending a Brocade event at their HQ in Silicon Valley. I happened to be at the same dinner table with one of the Brocade executives, and I asked him what the biggest challenge was for them to take market share from Cisco. His words were basically that their biggest obstacle was simply getting VAR’s to mention their name to customers. When so many VAR’s are leading with Cisco, it makes it hard for vendors like Brocade to win deals if they are never brought up. It pretty much means that the local Brocade sales teams are having to engage customers and then bring in a partner that can close the deal for them. While there are VAR’s that do not sell for Cisco, they are in the minority.

2. Certification programs – When you think of the baseline certification for networking, does the term CCNA come to mind? For most people, I bet it does. On the top end, you have the CCIE certification. This is a certification that is so well respected, that it usually commands an immediate salary increase when someone passes their CCIE lab. Not always, but usually. It isn’t uncommon to see someone achieve their CCIE and then change jobs a few months later due to the better offers that flood in. Entire companies have been formed around Cisco certifications. IP Expert, Internetwork Expert, and others exist to provide third-party training to people in order for them to pass a large number of Cisco certifications. Throw in companies like Global Knowledge, New Horizons, and several others, and you have a pretty decent Cisco training ecosystem out there. Try and find certification classes for other vendors in the networking space and you usually end up looking at training direct from the vendors themselves.

3. Books – Two words. Cisco Press. Find me another networking vendor with anything close to the number of titles put out by Cisco Press. I realize that Cisco Press is not wholly owned by Cisco, but it doesn’t really matter. The books have Cisco logos on them and the association to the vendor is assumed. It isn’t just Cisco Press ether. O’Reilly has several books on Cisco hardware/software as well as do other smaller publishers. Finding a book on a particular Cisco technology or product isn’t hard to do. Juniper is the only other networking vendor I know of that even comes close to matching the number of Cisco related titles out there. HP is off to a start with their publishing arm, but their titles are mostly limited to their ASE/MASE certification programs and there appear to be fewer than 20 titles available across the entire HP Press line.

4. Message forums – These may be dwindling as a whole, but some are still very active. The forums on Cisco’s site are massive and have a large number of people posting questions and answering questions. On a lesser scale, there are other message forum sites with large portions dedicated to Cisco issues. If you have a question and don’t necessarily want to open a support case with Cisco, or didn’t pay for support, one of these forums can usually help out.

5. Third party companies that enhance Cisco products – As someone who recently switched from a Windows phone back to an iPhone, I know the pain of seeing a really cool app and not having it available for a particular platform. One of the main drivers for me going back to the Apple ecosystem was the sheer number of apps that are now available to me. When it comes to third party applications/systems from network management companies, support for Cisco products is pretty much assumed, in the same way that any smart phone app is assumed to support iOS and Android. Whether it is call reporting software, flow data repositories, configuration management, or network monitoring, you can pretty much bet that Cisco will be supported.

6. Conferences – Starting on Sunday, May 18th, Cisco Live will kick off in San Francisco,CA. While not the only Cisco conference in the world, it is the largest. Thousands of networking professionals will descend on San Francisco for several days worth of technical training and informative sessions. The level of detail in some of these sessions is simply astounding. I know of no other vendor that gives that much insight into how their products work on the scale that Cisco does. Almost every product that they sell is also available to see on the expo floor at the show. Product specialists stand ready to sell and tell you about all the whiz-bang features that are supported with that particular product. You can even schedule time to meet with Cisco engineers and discuss any design challenges you are facing. They provide you help for free. It is truly an amazing conference. If you can’t attend in person, they make almost all of the sessions available online for free. They used to charge for them, but in the past several years, they did away with that and now you can watch sessions from all of their conferences around the world for free. Each session is usually about 2 hours, so the amount of information you get is fairly comprehensive.

7. Design guides – In order to appreciate the amount of detail that goes into a standard design guide from Cisco, you really just have to sit down and read one. They are usually several hundred pages and are filled with diagrams, configuration examples, and specific recommendations on how each technology or feature is expected to be implemented. This helps tremendously in the field when implementing new hardware or software. A lot of the guessing is eliminated because most things are spelled out in these design guides. Yes, some of them can be a bit dated, and not every single technology/product is covered, but it is far more comprehensive than any other networking vendor I have seen.

8. Massive marketing machine – When it comes to marketing for networking, Cisco sets the standard. They are at every major technology show. They have more webcasts, webinars, product videos, etc than any of their competition. If you want technical information, their TechwiseTV program is simply unmatched. In short, Cisco is everywhere. White papers, webcasts, product launch events, partner-only training events and conferences, etc. The sheer size and scale of their marketing is mind boggling. I can’t even put it into words how big it is. I tend to check my YouTube subscriptions at least once a week and the Cisco channel always has several dozen more videos uploaded. Whether or not anyone watches them in large numbers is another story, but they crank out a ton of content in videos alone. I’m not saying I agree with all of their marketing. It serves its purpose, even if I disagree with the content or approach sometimes. Somebody, somewhere, is influenced by it. Otherwise, they wouldn’t do it this way.

9. Large numbers of networking professionals familiar with their products – I rarely see a job posting for a networking person that doesn’t have some Cisco certification listed as a requirement. Almost every single client office I walk into has some piece of Cisco hardware in production. It is a rarity to find a network engineer that isn’t somewhat familiar with a Cisco Catalyst switch. I’m the type of guy who orders the same thing from each restaurant I go to. I find something I like and I stick with it. I do it so much that my wife is constantly trying to get me to try something else, but I rarely do. I like what I like, and I would rather know what I am getting(good and bad), then try something new and be disappointed. I think a lot of people think like that when it comes to choosing Cisco hardware/software. It is familiar to them. They are comfortable with it. They may gripe about software bugs or hardware quirks, but they keep on buying Cisco.

You Want To Compete Against That?

For smaller vendors, what I listed above is a BIG hurdle they have to overcome. The ecosystem drives the Cisco machine. Take away just a few of those things, or do them better, and you can beat Cisco. Yes, it can be done. Riverbed did it. F5 did it. Other vendors have done it as well, to a certain extent. I think in those cases, the technology they offered was compelling enough to overlook the ecosystem. That usually won’t be the case though.

If you want to compete on price, go for it. Be my guest. That will work with some customers, but not all of them. When people are committed to buying Cisco, they aren’t necessarily concerned about the lowest price. The way to beat them is through the ecosystem. You have to convince customers that you can provide a better experience with your products. I took a different stance in the article I wrote back in 2010, but have come to the conclusion that price isn’t that big of a deal anymore.

If I Were Running A Smaller Vendor

Note – I’m a technical person. I’m not in management. I am not in marketing. I am not an accountant. That means I might be a little unrealistic when it comes to how all of this stuff works when it comes to growing the bottom line. I just know what works for me, and that is how I approach the following.

Tell me how it works. That’s all. Tell me as much as you can without giving away your intellectual property and I will be satisfied. Once you have told me how it works, tell me how you expect me to implement it. Give me this information in two modes. High level and low level. I don’t care about all the marketing garbage where you use buzzwords and corner cases to appear like you are so much better than everyone else. I’m tired of that junk and I hate having to sift through all of it to get to the information I really need, if I can even find it. Design guides are a great thing to have. Cisco has plenty of them, and so does Aruba. Even better if they are not hidden behind a registration wall.

Tell me about every product you sell. If I have to open a support case to get information on something as simple as a lightning arrestor for an outdoor wireless access point, I don’t consider that a good thing. Every single product you sell should have some sort of a manual. Whether it is an installation guide or a configuration guide, make it available on your website. Pictures are great too!

I watch a LOT of vendor videos on YouTube. Most of them are so boring that I only make it through about a minute before I move on to something else. My absolute favorite high level videos are the TechWise TV Fundamentals ones that Cisco produces. In a few minutes, I watch Robb Boyd break down a specific technology with nice graphics and a touch of humor. Invest in good video production. Technical people will watch technical videos. I don’t know how many management types sit around and watch a group of marketing folks chat about ROI and other benefits of a given product on YouTube. These people are already triple booked for meetings each day at the office. You really think they take the time to watch an hour long webcast or video filmed in a studio with a roundtable discussion? Of course not. I take note of the number of views on YouTube videos. Unless I am missing something, the number of views on a lot of these videos are abysmal. You would be better served by creating content that actually means something.

Here’s a few examples of content I actually enjoy watching, in addition to the TechWiseTV stuff that Cisco puts out:

1. Aruba Outdoor Wireless Videos – These are great. Something as simple as how Aruba recommends you weatherproof outdoor AP’s are a great example of USEFUL information. You can also find plenty of videos from the Aruba Airheads conference on their YouTube channel and Airheads forum.

2. Tech Field Day – These are usually highly technical presentations from various vendors. Lots of great information found in these sessions.

3. Wireless LAN Professionals Summit – More great technical videos from the first WLP event.

Yes, those are all technical resources. I am a big believer in the “trickle up” effect when it comes to vendors winning over customers. If your IT staff gets excited about a particular vendor, then that information will be relayed up the chain until it hits the decision maker. Don’t overlook the power that the IT staff wields in influencing buying decisions. As long as they can make a great case for your product, you have a pretty good chance of getting it installed in a company.

Closing Thoughts

I should point out that I don’t dislike Cisco. The bulk of my living comes from Cisco. It is a company that I have a tremendous amount of time invested in from a professional development perspective. I’ve seen unbelievable quality from some of their products, and yet I have hurled many an insult at the Java based software they love so dearly. I like the company and many of the products they make. I’m just not naive enough to believe they are the end-all be-all when it comes to all things networking. There are alternatives out there, and each company has to evaluate the available solutions and choose the vendor that meets their needs the best. Due to Cisco’s sheer size and ability to execute, they tend to get the larger share in the marketplace. It isn’t always about who has the best technology.

I love to sell solutions for Cisco, and I love the challenge of selling against them. Well, maybe I love selling against them more, but that has more to do with me liking underdogs over incumbents. As long as it gets the job done, I don’t really care who you go with. I get paid either way. ;) There are plenty of times when Cisco is going to be the best fit for you. There are other times when they won’t. You have to know how to spot the difference, and the more information a vendor can provide from a technical perspective, the better.

Posted in cisco, vendors | 2 Comments