Introducing Customer Loyalty Tax

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Taking a page out of Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac - we are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, four times as much by our folly, and now, thanks to Cisco, 67% more for loyalty.

News of Cisco's 67% price increase on their established switching product line took many people (including yours truly) by surprise. Organizations that have standardized on some of the most popular Cisco switches are now forced to pay a significant amount more for the same switches they've been purchasing or forklifting their networks to support Cisco's newest switches.

Why would Cisco impose such a tax on a fairly loyal customer base?  One possibility is that customers are happy with their existing wired infrastructure and don't see a compelling need to refresh especially as most people are mobile, not fixed.

The next-generation workplace is all about mobility. We have seen customers use 802.11ac and even 802.11n to reduce infrastructure costs as much as 76% by rightsizing the mix of wired and wireless infrastructure in their network. Thanks to our friends on Tasman, rightsizing economics just got a 67% percent boost.

The only argument I have heard is that closets can be upgraded to Catalyst 3650s or 3850s for Unified Access. In other words, upgrade your wired network to add wireless APs. Sounds good at first, but here is the operational reality:

  • The new switches run IOS XE, not the IOS you know. So you will have IOS, AirOS and now IOS-XE on the same network. Ready to retake your CCIE exam?
  • Having a single OS for wired and wireless will cause outages on both networks every time an update is installed. Feature velocity is a lot faster on wireless than wired.
  • When you first enter a building your clients will stick to the first switch the AP is connected and all traffic must be routed back to switch. To avoid the 'sticky switch' you have the option of extending all VLANs to every switch, which Cisco recommends against for obvious reasons.
  • Centralized controllers are still required for campus deployments to solve roaming delays as people move beyond the reach of one wiring closet.
  • The price of the 3650 & 3850s will likely increase 67% when they release the 3950 or have a shortened lifecycle since Cisco recently announced a new and competing Instant Access architecture.

Just like California State University, KPMG and numerous others, we recommend investigating the real need for a new wired network prior to paying the loyalty tax. You may find that most ports go unused because most devices can't connect over the wire. And that some people don't use that VOIP desk phone, at all. If so, rightsize the number of Ethernet ports and unify wired and wireless with software for common configuration, management and security. This approach allows you to preserve your existing infrastructure.