Cisco switch users irked

By Jim Duffy, Network World |  Networking

SAN JOSE -- There's a TV advertisement for a candy bar that asks, "Not going anywhere?" and suggests burning idle time by chomping on the bar.

Well there are no snickers among Cisco users trying to get their hands on a Catalyst 6000 LAN switch. Lead times for delivery of the product have ballooned from three weeks to 12 due to a shortage of components from Cisco's suppliers, namely IBM.

The situation is delaying the deployment schedule of some of Cisco's largest customers and keeping them from building out their networks. The delays could also slow sales and affect the quarterly earnings of the high-tech bellwether and send a ripple effect throughout the industry.

"We are being told of delays of over three months for some products," says a user at a Fortune 100 high-tech product manufacturer in New England. "[Our] schedule is in trouble because some of the boxes on our shopping list have extremely long lead times. We may wind up lowering our standards to buy equipment that is at least available. This hardly engenders loyalty to the Cisco line."

The Catalyst 6000 has annual bookings of $5 billion, according to Cisco. The Layer 3 switch has quickly become Cisco's flagship line since its introduction two years ago and is the foundation of Cisco's infrastructure offerings for converged IP telephony networks. The Catalyst 6000 competes with Foundry Networks' BigIron, Extreme Networks' BlackDiamond, Enterasys Networks' SmartSwitch Router and Nortel Networks' Passport 8600 offerings.

PeopleSoft in Pleasanton, Calif., is a large Catalyst 6000 shop that has had to rely on Cisco distributors because it cannot get the switch fast enough directly from Cisco.

"We had a couple of orders that got strung out before we realized what was going on," says Stan Christensen, PeopleSoft director of network engineering. "Cisco suggested that we keep a second partner in line as far as someone who keeps certain stuff in stock. So we've been addressing it by just going to some of the channel and picking up product there."

Another user is working closely with Cisco to lessen the impact of the long lead time.

"This is a popular switch and it seems everyone wants one," says Doyle Friskney, director of communications and network systems at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. "Our salesman takes great efforts to lower our quoted lead times to ensure we can complete our project on time."

Wall Street investment firm UBS Warburg says the lengthy lead time is due to a lack of Application Specific Integrated Circuits from IBM, which have been on allocation for the past few months. But availability of these components has "greatly improved" in the last month, the firm notes.

"This should help Cisco more easily ship its Catalyst 6000 series of products," the firm stated in a recent report.

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