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Shocker! Cisco leads the pack in Gartner's Magic Quadrant for enterprise LAN

When I saw that Gartner had published a new Magic Quadrant for enterprise local area network (LAN) infrastructure, I knew one thing was for certain. Cisco Systems would be THE leader in the market. The only question was for me was – how would the rest of the market shake out?

In this blog post I’ll review this year’s Magic Quadrant for the LAN market, and I’ll compare it to last year’s Magic Quadrant for Campus LAN infrastructure, which is essentially a measure of the same market.

As I wrote above, Cisco is THE leader in the LAN market, scoring high in both of Gartner’s criteria for the quadrant: completeness of vision and ability to execute.  In their assessment of Cisco”s position, analysts Mark Fabbi and Tim Zimmerrman noted that Cisco maintains the broadest portfolio of LAN switching and WLAN technology on the market. The introduction of its Nexus switches have shown that Cisco is providing some leadership in addressing emerging connectivity demands in data centers.

However, Gartner cautioned that Cisco remains the high-priced vendor, with some workgroup switching products being twice as much as alternative products on the market. Gartner also said Cisco might be taking its customers for granted, especially those customers who believe in buying networking gear from more than one vendor. The analysts wrote:

We are hearing increasing concerns about Cisco’s presales organization taking customers for granted, and not providing expected levels of service, especially for customers that have not endorsed an end-to-end Cisco solution.

The only other leader in this Magic Quadrant is HP ProCurve, which was a leader last year as well.  Gartner described ProCurve as the fasted growing LAN switch vendor during the past two years and when clients speak with Gartner about their shortlists for vendors, ProCurve is the the second-most-asked-about vendor after Cisco. Gartner praised ProCurve’s integration into HP’s Technology Services group, which gives it access to HP’s broader sales force. It also praised ProCurve’s low cost of ownership and the successful integration of the WLAN technology it acquired with Colubris Networks.

But Gartner cautioned that ProCurve still lacks high-end core switches (An acquisition of a high end core switching vendor like Arista Networks or Blade Network Technologies would do the trick!). The company also needs to expand its channel for larger sales opportunities. ProCurve has in the past been known as a good vendor for SMBs.

A third leader from last year’s campus LAN Magic Quadrant fell down a notch in this year’s quadrant. Foundry Networks, now known as Brocade, the storage networking company that bought Foundry last year, was classified as a visionary in this year’s Quadrant, scoring high on its completeness of vision but scoring a little lower than last year in its ability to execute.

Gartner praised Brocade’s integration of Foundry but said Foundry lost momentum last year due to its U.S.-centric and data-center-centric sales focus. Gartner said it wants to see market evidence that Brocade’s integration of Foundry is successful and that Brocade can regain market momentum.  I have no doubt that last week’s announcement of a new Ethernet switching OEM agreement between IBM and Brocade will go a long way toward helping Brocade regain some of that lost momentum that Gartner is looking for.

Gartner identified three other visionaries in this year’s Quadrant: 3Com, Enterasys/Siemens and Extreme Networks.

Last year Gartner classified 3Com as a niche player, but it elevated the vendor to a visionary in this year’s Quadrant, giving it higher marks for its completeness of vision. Gartner praised 3Com’s revamped product lines and its growing market share in China and other emerging markets. H3C, 3Com’s Chinese subsidiary, has a 35% market share in China, for instance. And 3Com has a very large, low-cost R&D workforce in China. 3Com recently told me H3C has 2,300 engineers in China.  But Gartner cautioned that 3Com and H3C have been, until recently, run as two separate companies. It will be important for the two to integrate. Also, 3Com has very little market penetration outside of Asia. Gartner warned that taking products developed for China and selling them globally will be a challenge.

Enterasys, which merged with Siemens Enterprise Communications last year as part of a Gores Group acquisition, maintained last year’s position as a visionary. It drew praise from Gartner for it full complement of products from the data center to the access layer, its tightly integrated security technology, and good customer buzz around support and services. But Gartner said Enterasys’s market footprint remains small and its distribution channel is limited. Marketing has also been weak, Gartner said, as the market waits for the new combined company Enterasys/Siemens to change its name.

Extreme Networks, the third visionary in the Quadrant, drew praise for broadening its XOS-based switch line and its policy-based configuration and open architecture. But Gartner noted that Extreme is struggling to maintain revenue and it remains one of the smallest vendors in the market. Gartner also cited some support issues affecting the company’s install base.

Gartner identified two niche players in this year’s Magic Quadrant. First there is Nortel, which was downgraded from its visionary status in last year’s Quadrant. Gartner cited Nortel’s bankruptcy as an impediment to the company competing for new business. Gartner is predicting significant loss of market share and revenue for the company as it remains in bankruptcy. Gartner also said Nortel needs a new core switching platform.

The second visionary, Alcatel-Lucent, drew praise for a solid product strategy and its growing market share and revenue; however, Gartner said the company needs to invest more in R&D to keep pace with the latest innovations in data center switching and wireless LAN technology.

Force10 Networks, which was identified as a niche player last year, was dropped altogether from this year’s Magic Quadrant because it no longer meets Gartner’s revenue requirements for inclusion, whch is 1% of ports sold overall or 5% of ports sold in a specific market segment.

Gartner also noted that Juniper Networks has entered the Ethernet switch market, but it hasn’t earned enough of a revenue share to be included in this year’s Magic Quadrant. Juniper’s switches earned the company $56 million in 2008.

So there you have it, for what it’s worth. Cisco remains on top, but the other players in the market continue to make moves. ProCurve and 3Com are on the rise. Nortel and Force10 are in decline. Everyone else is looking to take a step forward.

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