The State of SMB networking Part 1 - Cisco

Cisco is moving into smaller businesses. In this interview, Ian Yates chats to the networking giant about its plans for this important market segment.

Cisco has got the SMB market squarely in its sights. Previously the networking giant tried to make headway in the small business sector by cutting prices on their entry-level enterprise kit, but this time the company is building specific products for the SMB market. SearchNetworking ANZ's Ian Yates asked Cisco's Sarah Adams to explain this new strategy, and then caught up with the existing players in the SMB networking market to see if they were getting nervous.

Sarah Adams (SA): What we've been doing over the last two years is really making our mark in SMB. It's the first time Cisco has developed products from the ground up specifically for the SMB. So even though we have a lot of enterprise knowledge and expertise and we will leverage that, we really looked at what an SMB needs and construct its product from the ground up. This has not been how we have historically attempted previous entrants into the market. So we are really looking at addressing what we are calling the sub two hundred and fifty seat size, is how Cisco defines SMB. And we've got a range of products now that suit anywhere from roughly a five seat organisation up to a two hundred and fifty across our gammet of technology.

Ian Yates (IY): So the difference is that mostly in the past you would try to get the price down on your high-end gear but now you are building gear specifically for this market?

SA: Yes, absolutely. We are leveraging the technologies that we can but we are constructing them in a much more simplified fashion but we are also doing things like adding GUI interfaces. Whereas most of our enterprise technologies have command line interfaces and a very skilled technician needs to install and operate the equipment. For an SMB that is obviously not a practical solution so we are really looking at having a graphical user interface to make our products much easier to use.

IY: The obvious question everyone is going to ask is, don't you already play in the SMB market with your Linksys brand?

SA: We do definitely already play in the SMB market with our Linksys brand and I think what Cisco is doing is looking at what does the customer need. We believe that there are multiple options for an SMB market. Linksys is still absolutely going to be an obvious choice for some small medium businesses where potentially price and what they are looking for from a support ongoing maintenance perspective is a little bit different. And maybe it is their first foray into networking but we do generally believe that Cisco product getting in there is really for SMB's who are doing either more mission critical types of networking or as the network evolves and more technologies get onto the network, we genuinely believe that the network is going to be the platform. It is going to be imperative that that network has quality of service, has the uptime and has the maintenance and support to run that mission critical component. That is really where the Cisco brand is different from the Linksys brand. There is definitely a space for both products in the market.

IY: You are saying businesses that are really network centric and everything they do lives and breathes via the network, even though they might not sell network stuff, but they need it all day every day to survive need Cisco-badged kit. The Linksys is more for the businesses that would like some networking on the side?

SA: I think over time that most businesses regardless of what industries they are in are going to rely more and more on their network and as the business migrates into "wow, this has become mission critical and I didn't think it was going to, but I have gotten to that point." Then we'd like to think that if they are a Linksys customer today then they will evolve into a Cisco customer down the road.

NEXT: Linksys and its place in the SME networking market


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