Overnight Cisco made a laughing-stock of itself in the technology media - by the ludicrous over-hyping of the launch of... wait for it... yet another router. By Martyn Warwick
A couple of weeks ago I, along with many other hacks, got a personalised press release from Cisco. it said, "Martyn, ready yourself for Cisco to make an announcement that will forever change the Internet and its impact on consumers, businesses and governments."
"Aha", I thought. "This must be significant. Perhaps we are at last to have Cisco's much-vaunted "Consumer Strategy" explained to us. Perhaps there's some secret bit of new kit about to be revealed (like a rumoured set-top box) that really will 'forever change the Internet'".
But no, we had been fed snake oil. Tuning-in to Cisco's webcast yesterday afternoon we (eventually) learned that the company is as adept and shameless as any other in over-egging the pudding.
For what Cisco has actually done is continue to do what it is famous for and what it does best - introduce an incrementally improved router. Laudable no doubt but not quite what we had been led to expect. This was oversell writ so large you could read it from the moon.
Cisco has spent US$1.6 billion on router R&D and it has been money well spent with the Carrier Routing System (CRS) line becoming a huge success since it was introduced six years ago. The CRS-1 both confounded analyst's expectations and vindicated CEO John Chamber's faith in the product. At the time of its launch critics claimed there was a market "for a maximum of 12 such high-end routers" around the world. Since then these people have had to eat their words and Cisco has installed more than 5000 CRS-1 systems globally.
The CRS-3, that was launched to such over-the-top brouhaha yesterday is the logical next-generation successor to the CRS-1 - but that's all it is. OK it offers telcos and ISPs 12 times the traffic capacity and a threefold increase in bandwidth - all well and good - and can provide an enormous 322 Tbps of aggregate bandwidth which will be of great value as video-based application proliferate. No doubt it's a good piece of kit but with an entry price of US$90,000 you'd expect it to be.
But will it "forever change the Internet"?
Well, John Chambers believes it will because it will be the foundation of the next-generation Internet where, as he says,"Video is the killer app." Mr. Chambers adds, "Video brings the Internet to life and most of the devices that will be coming on the network will evolve quickly into video. Whether it's gaming or video or tablets or ESPN bringing 3D sports to TV, it's about video and all this video this video traffic, along with other data intensive applications for things such as health care, will require more bandwidth than anyone could have imagined a short time ago."
So, by "forever changing the Internet" what Cisco actually means is that, thanks to the CRS-3, telcos and ISPs will now be able to ensure that they always have enough bandwidth for even the most demanding applications and services.
That's a good enough story in itself but by wrapping it in hyperbole Cisco has actually done itself a disservice - at least as far as the technology media is concerned. Colleagues and other journalists I spoke to last night and this morning all say the same thing, which can be paraphrased as, "When I found out what all the hoo-hah was actually about I laughed and then when I realised I'd been taken for a fool, I got annoyed." I'd go along with that.
The trouble for Cisco is that journalists are a cynical breed (usually with very good reason) and don't like to be taken for a ride. The danger for Cisco is that after this half-baked effort to make an earth-shattering story out of very little, the next time it does come up with a real plum those that would be expected to report on it will be all the more wary that they might be being sold another pup. Once bitten, twice shy.
Remember Aesop's Fable about the boy who cried "Wolf". You a can only do that a few times before people stop taking any notice. The last time the lad tried it, when he really was surrounded by wolves, no-one came to his assistance and he was eaten. There's a lesson there Cisco ought to learn if it wants to retain the goodwill of the Fourth Estate.
Earlier today I interviewed Doug Webster, Cisco's Director of Service Provider Marketing, and I asked him about the over-hyping of the CRS-3. You can see the video at the top left of this page.
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