Networking's greatest debates in LANS + WANS

Including IPv4 vs. IPv6, routing vs. switching, Packet switching vs. circuit switching, Ethernet vs. Token Ring, and Cisco vs. the rest,

Cisco vs. Bay/3Com/Cabletron/Juniper

The subplot of the routing vs. switching debate was the fierce competition between Cisco and enterprise rivals Bay, 3Com and Cabletron. Over time, Cisco also deepened its focus on the service provider market, where start-up Juniper Networks, with the financial backing of several Cisco rivals in data and telecommunications, was becoming a formidable router alternative.

Perhaps only IBM faced a similar "gang up" mentality from other leading companies in its industry. But it was also a compliment, a show of respect and fear of Cisco's potency and eventual dominance in the market through a combination of technology and marketing savvy, aggressive pricing and an ambitious acquisition strategy that enabled Cisco to burst its way into hot markets from storage to video.

Bay was formed out of necessity from the merger of two smaller Cisco rivals -- SynOptics in enterprise hubs and switches, and Wellfleet in enterprise routers. But even the combination of two major players in their respective markets could not slow the Cisco juggernaut -- Bay was eventually acquired by Nortel, which remains a distant No. 2 or No. 3 to Cisco in enterprise networking.

Before that, however, Bay combined with IBM -- which had an ill fated LAN infrastructure operation called Networking Hardware Division (NHD) -- and 3Com to form the Network Interoperability Alliance (NIA). The group claimed it had formed to enhance interoperability between ATM switches; but observers noted that the vendors really got together to gang up on Cisco and try to thwart the company's increasing dominance in enterprise networking.

The toothless NIA folded with nary a whimper after three years, having made virtually no impact on the market or user buying decisions.

IBM, meanwhile, folded its NHD hand in 1999 by selling its routing and switching technology to Cisco.

Cabletron, meanwhile, committed a competitive faux pas by having its Cisco IOS router software license revoked after a trade show stunt. Cabletron resold a Cisco router blade in its hubs and switches. But after the company showed a marketing video at a trade show of the Cabletron Crusher beating the flabby Cisco Kid to a pulp, Cisco yanked the IOS license.

"We want healthy competition, but Cabletron has gone beyond that with the things they're doing," Alex Mendez, at the time Cisco's vice president of marketing for enterprise networking, said then.

Cabletron was gone a few years later, having split into four companies in 1999. What's left of the company's switching hardware operations -- Enterasys -- was eventually taken private by an equity investment after an accounting scandal toppled top management. It is also now a bit player in enterprise networking, ranking No. 7 in switched Ethernet revenue market share in 2006 with 1.5 percent, according to Dell'Oro Group.

Juniper is having better luck against Cisco in the service provider market than Cabletron, Bay, IBM and 3Com had in enterprise. The company stole one-third of Cisco's overall service provider router market share and remains a viable competitor and alternative to Cisco in that market. Juniper is also looking to broaden this success into the enterprise market, where it acquired VPN and firewall leader NetScreen technologies. The company is also expected to enter the LAN switching arena soon.
Jim Duffy

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Network World staff

Network World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?