by Michael Friedenberg

Network Battle

Sep 23, 2009

Focusing increased investments on your enterprise network infrastructure.

If you’ve read my column before, you’ll know I’m a huge movie buff. One movie I found terrifically entertaining (and equally disturbing) was The Dark Knight, with the late Heath Ledger playing the Joker. Especially memorable is the line where the Joker sums up his eternal feud with Batman: “This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.”

Well, in the combative, competitive IT market, we have one heck of a battle raging in the enterprise networking space. In one corner we have Cisco, a $36 billion market leader that seems increasingly scattered in its priorities. Several weeks ago, CEO John Chambers went on the record about Cisco’s 30-plus unique priorities and how they’re being managed by 59 internal standing committees. Yes, 59. You do have to worry about focus and execution there, don’t you?

In the other corner, we have a collection of players licking their chops to bite off a bigger slice of this multibillion-dollar market. 3Com, Avaya, Brocade, Enterasys/Siemens, HP, Juniper and Riverbed all see the opportunity to provide low-cost, simple, fast solutions to IT buyers.

And who is left sitting right in the middle of this oncoming collision? You, of course. In a difficult economy where revenue growth is still painfully slow, one of the few areas of increased investment focus is your enterprise network infrastructure. That may be due to the fact that networks and data centers haven’t been truly updated since Y2K, but there are also incredible efficiencies to be found with newer technologies. Factor in the competitive need for faster throughput and speedier customer service, and the bottom line is that this is an area where you can find real savingsat a time when your company probably needs it most. All of the networking vendors in this space, naturally enough, want to offer a helping hand.

So this promises to be one battle that will be fascinating to watch, especially as fiscal 2010 rolls forth. If you don’t want to take my word for it, check out Jim Duffy’s Network World coverage (“Do HP, 3Com Value Claims Trump Cisco?” and be sure to read the lively reader comments his story provoked.

Also feel free to drop me a line from your front-row seat at this unfolding drama, as the unstoppable force of a wildly competitive market meets the immovable object of an industry giant.