Why Cisco, Not Juniper?

OpEx, CapEx and the Frankenkluge in the Branch Office Closet

One of the great things about being at Cisco HQ in Silicon Valley is the wonderful diversity we have here. Although you don’t really get seasons you do get an awesome mix of people. A recent stroll around the lake at Shoreline Park revealed people speaking English, Russian, German, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Hindi and some other languages I could not identify. Similarly sushi, butter chicken and naan, pho, bulgoki and bahn mi are all easy to find for the diversified, international foodie.

However, when I go out for Indian food with my friends, they almost always insist on going to a buffet in Mountain View called Passage to India. Partially because they usually have a huge assortment of “desi-chinese” dishes such as Gobi Manchurian and Chilli Chicken but largely because they see the buffet being a tremendous value. Little chicken tikka masala, little tandoori, little goat curry, some gulab jamun – enjoy them all, they are all included in a well integrated package. A la carte approaches make it hard to enjoy such variety, as each additional dish is usually priced like the main part of a meal.

Reminds me of the whole Cisco vs Juniper thing for the branch.

We took a look at the cost of building a modern, secure, integrated services network for the branch, incorporating the functionality and services that you would want in a new branch deployment, you know, things like security (firewall, IPS, VPN), video, server virtualization, WAN optimization, video optimization, 4G backup and Unified Communications. Doing all this with Cisco was pretty easy, all you need is an ISR, which we spec’ed out as an ISR 3945 for our hypothetical 150 person branch (with a 45Mbps WAN bandwidth). Implementation was cheap and easy, particularly when you consider all the capabilities that you were getting.

With Juniper, the experience is a lot more like trying to put together a coherent meal from an a la carte menu, except you can’t get everything you want from the same restaurant. Oh, and yes, you are going to pay and pay dearly. Just like this IT manager who was finally saved by our IT hero!

Why Cisco, Not Juniper?

And now, lets jump into the numbers. A 5 year CapEx for the Cisco solution (remember, we are supposed to be expensive) was right around $88K while a competitive solution delivering the same capabilities ended up being close to $155K. But that is just where the ugliness starts – never fear, it gets worse.

A big part of the overall cost of owning and operating a network is the care and feeding beyond the initial cost of the equipment, things like implementation, cost of management, power and facilities – OpEx. The Cisco solution, integrated from a single vendor with a single throat to choke, reduces complexity, cost and uncertainty. The uncertainty bit may seem trivial, but it isn’t. Not all things that should play nicely together actually do. For example, unified communications and firewalls are common sources of pain – unless, of course, you are dining at the Cisco buffet.

Five years of OpEx paints a similar picture – about $52K for the Cisco branch and a far less pocket friendly $121K for the offering from Juniper et al, with a big chunk, over half, going to maintenance services contracts and downtime expenses. Clearly complexity has costs and they are manifested in implementation, ongoing support and downtime. Overall – when you add up the CapEx and OpEx, a Cisco solution turns out to be 49% more cost effective than an equivalent Juniper solution.

At our tribute to Juniper, we have put together some things that help explain our take on the costs of complexity and the advantages of an integrated, architectural approach to networks and the services they support.

For folks interested in getting a breakdown of these CapEx and OpEx numbers, we have a white paper explaining just that here. If you want to get into the weeds and want a complete data dump of bill of materials (BOM) we used for crunching these numbers, please reach out to your Cisco account representative and we’ll be happy to provide you that.

And a generic version of a calculator to help you customize these numbers for your deployment scenario can be found here.

So what do you think? Are we here at Cisco just eating our own buffet food or does it make sense to you?