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Commentary: Cisco covering all bases

In a two-pronged attack, the leading network-equipment provider is going after two rivals in two different niche markets.

    By Jennifer Liscom, Gartner Analyst

    In a two-pronged attack, leading network-equipment provider Cisco Systems is going after two rivals in two different niche markets: Riverstone Networks in metropolitan area networks, and Juniper Networks in high-end routers.

    See news story:
    New Cisco router to target metro areas
    As it targets the MAN market with the Cisco 10720, the networking giant is entering unfamiliar waters that Riverstone and a couple others have already successfully navigated. Nonetheless, Gartner believes that Cisco can take away some of Riverstone's market share based on Cisco's clout and the promise of an end-to-end network that is easy and fairly inexpensive to deploy and manage. However, it remains to be seen if the Cisco offering will perform as well as products from more established MAN providers such as Riverstone, Foundry Networks and Extreme Networks.

    In response to Juniper moving its M40 router to the "edge" of the network, Cisco has repositioned its Cisco 12000 family of low-cost, high-density and high-speed optical routers outward to challenge Juniper. In the past, Juniper's high-end routers have consistently outperformed Cisco's offerings. But this time, by coming in with prices significantly lower than those of Juniper, Cisco hopes to pry away market share.

    While Cisco 12000 prices are not yet final, base prices are half those of Juniper. The price, however, may increase based on configuration and with the addition of what Cisco calls "line cards," separately priced add-on components that are required based on an enterprise's specific networking needs.

    Cisco tends to cover all the bases by offering a product for just about every aspect of the network-equipment market. (Cisco even puts up its own internally competing products in some markets.) In this situation, Cisco is moving an existing product line into the high-end router market to challenge Juniper while targeting another product line at Riverstone to enter the metro Ethernet market.

    Gartner believes Cisco recognizes that service providers such as Yipes Communications and Cogent Communications are spending money on MANs, and Cisco may view that as opportunity knocking.

    However, reliability problems have riddled Ethernet-based MANs, and Gartner believes SONET, an International Telecommunication Union standard for synchronous transmission of multigigabit speeds, is more reliable. On the other hand, Ethernet is less expensive and faster to establish than SONET. A consortium called the Resilient Packet Ring Alliance is working on a standard to resolve these reliability problems.

    (For a related commentary on the lack of last-mile connectivity to businesses in many metropolitan areas, see Gartner.com.)

    Entire contents, Copyright ? 2001 Gartner, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.