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May 17, 2010

Friends Don't Let Friends Buy Cisco...

Guy-punching-computer  ...for wireless at least (attribution: Ron Tomlin). 

<RANT>Cisco is the market leader for wireless and probably always will be. But that doesn't make it right. 

They've established this market position not because of their profound product vision but because of their ginormous size. 

Up to now, Cisco has been able to bolt on Wi-Fi to big deals at rock bottom prices - effectively locking out competitors. To them selling wireless has been like selling a scarf to a woman who has just purchased a complete wardrobe. 

The point is that wireless can no longer be considered an afterthought. And Cisco wireless, across nearly every category, is an afterthought. Here's an unfair comparison across different product lines for you not to believe.


The networked world is going through a major paradigm shift (yeah we hate the term too) that will profoundly affect infrastructure architecture. Wi-Fi is the new enterprise edge and infrastructures will be built around user mobility, not the other way around (like it has been).

Wireless mobile networking and cloud computing (ie. using virtual private CDNs to eliminate data centers and optimize access) is fundamentally changing traditional enterprise network architecture. Aruba is one of the few wireless companies that have recognized this trend and is trying to do something about it.

Still, neither CSCO or ARUN do much, if anything, to improve the delivery of Wi-Fi services to client devices relative to optimizing radio performance. Smarter approaches to RF optimization in the form of dynamic beamforming solve some of the CORE Wi-Fi challenges facing the industry:

  • Virtually eliminating co-channel interference
  • Enabling more predicable performance by "steering" signals over the highest performing paths and
  • Doubling the effective footprint (coverage area) of an AP (read: fewer APs give better performance).
These are HUGE issues especially given Wi-Fi's massive appeal and enormous install base not to mention the fact that it is quickly becoming the defacto standard for getting into an out of a whole new generation of devices (eg. iPads, iEverything). There's now an overwhelming desire for Wi-Fi to become the primary means of network access for enterprise users with the wired network providing vanilla transport. But this won't happen until Wi-Fi reliability issues are addressed.

And companies are no longer willing to settle for wireless that's just good enough, they are demanding  "wired-like wireless."  To deliver this, you MUST have as much control over the RF domain as possible.

For a large company, Cisco has been phenomenally aggressive in the wireless space (eg. buying Aironet, Airespace, etc.), canabalizing its own internal wireless developments. To Cisco's credit, they have marketed their wireless products much better than they've built them. They've been very smart about recognizing advanced features such as chip-based beamforming (ClientLink) and, most recently, RF interference (CleanAir). Yet Cisco's implementation of advanced features is like Microsoft's - too little too late - while their products, in our very biased opinion, remain overpriced and underwhelming.

Obviously we specialize in wireless and are a fly on the ass of an elephant compared to Cisco (the elephant). So it's unfair for us to rant and rave about Cisco's wireless. Oops, too late. </RANT>


Marcus Burton

Man, you need to write more blogs...or host some blog writing workshops for the rest of us so we can all be more entertaining. :)

I can't disagree about the way Cisco leverages their infrastructure deals. What an advantage.

800 pounds

Don't underestimate the leverage. All that switch and router business garners trust. They have a proven support model that gives customers confidence they can get most things somewhat right. Its unfortunate the innovators in this space don't get enough credit. It's taken Aruba a long time to finally earn a valued place as originators of the controller paradigm, something they deserved a long time ago. Ruckus has an innovative PHY; Meru and Aerohive innovative control planes, but there's a lot more to it than that. You have to scale well enough on everything --PHY, control, configuration and support planes -- to handle the marketshare. Or if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. I'd love to see your stuff on Cisco APs, as distasteful as it may seem.

Ron Tomlin

Thanks for attributing the tag line to me, however I saw it many years ago on a t-shirt


Do not judge, lest ye be judged RUCKUS!!!

If only your customer service was half as good as Cisco's

This blog makes you look like complete wankers.

Devin Akin

I agree with Marcus. :) Very nice blog post indeed. It's hard to disagree with anything in it. I especially like how you compare the weight of your controller to that of Cisco's controller. Weight is very important in a 1U rack unit device you know. :P Regarding the statement from "800 pounds", I'd rather see your technology combined with that of another similarly-innovative company than with Cisco. ;)


A word of advice. If you want to build your business and not to be a fly on an elephants ass then stop ranting and be more positive about your solution. Explain why your product is better without trashing the competitor and don't say ass when talking to your customers.

Cisco is BIG and they are a great company. Maybe your product is better, I don't really know. You need to chip away at their customer base little by little to get to be a bird on an elephants bottom and keep going up from there.

Anthony Combs

A word of advise to such a small player in the market as yourself. It would strengthen your product position in the market to partner and integrate with Cisco, than to throw them under the bus.

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