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By Lauren Stevens November 1st marks the end of an era—a date when Cisco will no longer offer new service and support as well as routine failure analysis on its widely popular Catalyst 6503, 6506 and 6509 chassis. Expect no further fanfare; in fact, Cisco most likely is hoping end-users won’t see the news, which is buried deep on its web site. But end-users should take note and prepare for the consequences. It’s been a full year since the networking giant would even take an order for any of these very successful products. So what if your network has standardized on these products and now you’re undergoing a network expansion and need more? Or what if you need a spare for replacement or disaster recovery? Cisco would say step up to the “E” chassis. Never mind that you need to dig deeper into your beleaguered budget. After all, the new generation offers increased power scalability, maximum PoE port density and supports higher performance line cards. What if you don’t need any of these “benefits”? What if you are content with the status quo because these models have worked well for years? What if you don’t have the funds for the expensive replacements? Perhaps you’re thinking there’s no option other than to skimp somewhere else to pay the piper. If you are, no wonder Cisco’s revenues went up from $28.5 billion in fiscal 2006 to $34.9 billion in fiscal 2007 and a 13-to-16 percent increase is expected for fiscal 2008. A good portion of these profits come from Cisco convincing increasing amounts of end-users that they must constantly upgrade to the latest generation equipment, and do it in shorter and shorter timeframes. Despite what Cisco might say, end-users do have some viable options. Start with a few facts you’ll never hear from any OEM: • The vast majority of end-users do not need latest-generation gear; • The previous-generation equipment you were told is unavailable is available; • This equipment can be purchased for up to 95 percent off OEMs’ list; • If you must have it tomorrow, in most cases you can. Where can end-users find these answers as well as other useful, unbiased product information? From the secondary market for networking equipment. As a marketer of pre-owned gear, I favor a “Generation Neutral” (or “Gen N”) approach that stands right in the path of the concept being proliferated by Cisco that only current generation products are viable.
Sure, there are instances when even secondary market companies will tell you that only the latest and greatest gear will do, but more often they’ll identify opportunities where previous generation, refurbished equipment is more than adequate in meeting performance requirements. In contrast to what OEMs say, “used” doesn’t necessarily mean “abused.” In fact, by opting for Gen N, end-users can be assured of getting equipment that is tried, tested, familiar and budget friendly. After all, shouldn’t top-quality networking equipment, like the best-selling routers from Cisco, be viable for more than two years? At a time when most all organizations are feeling a strain on their budgets, the Gen N approach brings increased buying power to your IT dollars. Savvy end-users taking advantage of the secondary market will benefit from better visibility into what equipment is still available and viable, so more informed purchasing and equipment upgrade decisions can be made. The bottom line is only purchase what makes sense— and when it makes sense—by embracing a Gen N philosophy that lets you extend the life of your networking equipment and migrate to newer gear on your timetable, not the OEM’s.