Why does Cisco dominate the ethernet switching market?


Why haven't smaller participants like Brocade, Avaya, and HP been able to take share? Have you used any other vendors in the Ethernet Switch market?

ITCS user
88 Answers

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We have used Zyxel and Netgear, Frankly the stability of Cisco, the scalability and ease of integration with other Vendors e.g VMware along with the training available make them far superior.

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Top ReviewerConsultant

Have to agree with Durrell on the Cisco offerings and certifications. I would say Avaya is more on VoIP capability and have not heard about their switch portfolio. For HP networking, they are on par with Cisco. In terms of capability and support, I would say Cisco is there.

Have you used any other vendors in the Ethernet Switch market?
Answer: Yes, I have used Arista Networks as well.

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Have to agree with Durrell, while the equipment and support performs better than the competitors in my opinion, the shear volume of training that has been put out by Cisco has made it the leader. Other providers offer training of course, but none are as comprehensive and well known as the Cisco offerings..they have become THE standard for networking.

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Cisco simply has very well working equipment and it's a huge company which has gold reserves bigger than fort knox :)

I've used enterasys, juniper, noname and 3com switches, everyone has its advantages but cisco was what I liked most. Simply does its work and there is no place for failure. Only thing you need is vacuum machine from time to time.

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The emphasis that has been put on certifications is the biggest reason these vendors are not taking up a bigger share of the market. The industry standards for networking certs are the Cisco ones. Since the certs are catered to their equipment, it just makes sense that they have such a huge market share.

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For price/performance, I think HP and Juniper offer more than Cisco. HP typically comes in at a much lower cost for comparable features and throughput, and their switches have been very reliable for me. Juniper switches are similarly priced to Cisco gear, but they usually offer a much wider range of functions, along with equal or better performance.

All of the reasons Nuno listed, above, are valid. In addition:

4. High Performance - On balance, for most classes of switch, Cisco gear performs better. I've had great experience with HP Procurve switches, and their price/performance has been very good. But once in a while, they couldn't keep up with demanding traffic, like iSCSI, and we had to go back to Cisco gear.

5. OEM Testing and Validation - If you're introducing new network gear - firewalls, storage, servers, etc. - you will make sure it works with Cisco switches because the installed base is huge. This is a vicious cycle - more Cisco interoperability and validation means fewer issues with Cisco gear.

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I have used Netgear and 3com switches.

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I have tried a few other vendors on the Ethernet switch market, especially HP, Huawei and SMC switches. Haven’t used Alcatel personally, but have had interesting feedback for them from colleagues.

Regarding Cisco however, I believe there are three main reasons for it:

1) Integration on the “cisco environment”, with a structured offer from basic switches, up to multi-layer equipment, allowing a consistent platform all through the enterprise.

2) Management interface – ranging from graphic management (through local web interface, CiscoWorks modules, etc.), to CLI, with the Cisco IOS, provides great flexibility for remote management, configuration backup, and monitoring.

3) Expertise of in-house personnel – Both the training provided by Cisco itself, and the fact that Cisco has a strong base for the remaining network infrastructure (routers, and other network devices).

There is also the issue that, sometimes, some mixed vendor environment can bring issues with 802.1q trunking (I’ve seen issues with HP Switches while having problems with a VLAN 1 on the HP mixing with a native VLAN on Cisco for instance…), and other proprietary protocols (CDP for instance) that can have implications with the way management or configuration is done…

Also, in some cases, the use of other technologies that cisco has brought along over the years – Network access control, that interfaces with Cisco switches for instance, and the buildup of different interactions with other technologies, ends up creating a technical barrier on top of the barrier for change on things like:

“our other 30 switches are Cisco, and now I’ll place another vendor one?”.

And on that question, price is not likely to be the most important factor, but TCO, existing expertise, and applications running on the network (that need QoS for instance), and integration with existing monitoring, configuration management, and infrastructure, may be the most important factor on the decision…

Find out what your peers are saying about Cisco, Netgear, MikroTik and others in Ethernet Switches. Updated: June 2021.
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