A co-worker of mine forwarded me an e-mail earlier today that stated that Cisco was going to discontinue their UC300, UC500 and BE3000 series of products. You can see the EOL notices here:
If you read through the documents you will see that in addition to killing off these products, Cisco has also provided no real replacement product for this. This decision has effectively removed Cisco from the S portion of the SMB market. Several thoughts went through my head when this announcement came out and I thought that I would hash them out here.
If I am totally honest, the first thought that went through my head was thank you. I work for a Cisco partner and while our primary focus has not been the SMB line of products, we did have some customers out there that were using the UC5XX and UC3XX line of products (more the former than the latter). While the 5XX series products were OK, that’s about all I could say about them. Cisco would not support them if you configured from the command line instead of the GUI, even though there were still some things that you could only do from the CLI.
Additionally, if you went through the GUI, you still had to deal with small business TAC. Small business TAC is not TAC. If you have ever complained about regular TAC, I am pretty sure you can take those complaints and multiply them by 10 and it would apply to small business TAC. I know the reason that CLI configuration was not supported and it was that the small business TAC didn’t understand it in order to support it.
While there are some companies out there that are really well suited to deploying this product, I don’t think that our company was. It wasn’t because of lack of talent, it was because of the level of talent that we have. I’m not tooting my own horn or anything, but the fact of the matter is that once your labor costs a certain amount (which it will if you have higher end engineers) then you will not be able to cost effectively deploy some of these solutions.
The next thought that ran through my brain was that line about the migration path. Most people who had the UC5XX positioned to them had it done because they weren’t willing to pay the cost of a BE6000 system with server hardware, voice gateways, licensing and everything else. An 8-user phone system is not going to have an interest in investing the money in the solution, not to mention the labor to implement the solution for a phone system that size. I would imagine that a large number of users of these systems will just use their system until it stops working or encounters a problem that they can’t fix without support and then they will put in an IPOffice or other small business solution from a competitor.
I have talked to a couple of people, including @NetworkingNerd on Twitter that think that if some changes were made to the BE3000 product that it could easily have been a realistic migration solution for existing users as well as a solution moving forward. I agree, some sort of bigger, but not as big as a BE6000 could probably be used in these situations, but it would have to be a solid platform.
Narrowing the Competitive Field
I know that there are several partners out there that are the opposite of the company that I work with. Rather than focusing of the BE6000 and higher they are focused on the BE3000 and lower. By making this announcement, Cisco has put a serious dent in those companies business plans. Take from that what you will, Cisco has to make the financial decisions for them to move forward and I’m guessing financial was part of this decision. By doing that one of a couple things will happen. First, if a small business partner was only selling Cisco I imagine that a fair amount of those will go business. For those that don’t, I would guess that a fair portion will start selling competitive solutions rather than trying to upsell to the BE6000. Third, some will get into the BE6000 and do well. In the end this just means fewer resellers out there.
What it All Means
If you go back a few years, Cisco was telling people that they were big into the SMB market and that’s where they anticipated a lot of growth. I think that a few missteps along the way brought us to where we are including rolling out products that have many issues, providing a support system that was not the same as other Cisco products and not providing an environment that allows engineers to improvise through a CLI to get things done that can’t be accomplished through the CLI. After several years of dealing with these problems and having lukewarm sales, I think that Cisco has opted to step out of the small business market rather than trying to fix the issues that are out there.