I was in Charlotte, NC, hanging out in the lobby at a customer I was visiting, trying not to distract too many of the folks also wearing visitor badges with some sort of random epiphany, when my iPhone rang. Glancing at the display, it wasn’t a contact or number I recognized, so I answered it, anxious to learn that I had won yet another free cruise or some sort of mortgage relief signed into law last week by President Obama himself.
“Hi, this is Matt,” automatically readying myself to go through the steps required to blacklist the number within iOS.
“Hi Matt, this is Ray from CloudGenix,” the friendly voice stated. “I wanted to know when you’d have an opportunity to schedule the CloudGenix challenge.”
Then I remembered. A couple of weeks prior, their founder had connected with me on LinkedIn, and I thought he had a cool concept. I had in fact signed up for the promotion, where you could get some free stuff just by listening to their pitch and comparing their SD-WAN solution to Cisco’s.
“Hey, thanks for calling. I’d love to, but… you know I work for Cisco, right?”
“That’s not a problem, send me over some dates.”
I’m sure there were some additional pleasantries exchanged, and specifics about the promotion, but I was getting ready to walk into a conference room, and didn’t think about this again until I got another friendly reminder via email a few weeks later. Some dates were suggested, and we finally agreed on a day in mid-September, when they would be up in my neck of the woods.
(Fast-forward a few months. As is typically the case, summer was over in the blink of an eye.)
So it was going to be a busy day, but I was still curious about what was to come from the challenge. I began to ruminate if there was going to be a way to actually win (lose?) the challenge, and how I could go about beating this thing. Delusions of a Kobayashi Maru exercise permeated my thoughts, and I was actually getting excited to go through with it. What if I was able to get the Cisco WAN gear up quicker and show them which was a better choice? What would they say about that? Had anyone even done that? And then a really strange thing happened:
They didn’t show up.
I got a cancellation notice in my Outlook inbox. No explanation was attached, no follow-up, no offer to reschedule. I can only assume that they were not interested in someone who has a pretty good understanding of WAN architecture touching their gear. I wondered if they just had a company viewing of WarGames, and actually considered that “the only winning move is not to play.”
I guess I have a few things in common with these people. We’re obsessed with all things Cisco. Many of them used to work for Cisco. We like being in New England in the summer. Did I mention that they are obsessed with Cisco?
Now, I’ve always said that there comes a point in time when you have to sell your product on its own merits. In this case, the whole thing feels like going on a date where the other person talks about their ex- the entire time. I also happen to think that spending more on marketing than you do on R&D performs a tremendous disservice to the industry. (I’m talking to you too Nutanix.)
Since then, I’ve seen all sorts of gimmicks like their rebranded version of the Pepsi Challenge on social media. (If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, these guys LOVE Pepsi.) They were very vocal about the release of a Cisco Press iWAN book, claiming that it was tantamount to an installation manual. On the contrary, it’s a deep dive on WAN architecture and an everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-SD-WAN-but-were-afraid-to-ask compendium packed with great content.
As I’ve alluded, I spend most of my time focused on application and data center solutions, and I think it’s a great deal of fun, perhaps even exciting. I don’t expect everyone to feel that way (just ask my wife) but if I can help solve some problems along the way and convey my belief that I’m promoting the correct solutions, I like to think I bring some relevance to the table. But I can assure you, I have never sold a product/solution/architecture, unintentionally or otherwise, based on the fact that it was exciting.
So keep that in mind if you get the privilege to actually take the CloudGenix Challenge. If you decide to take the leap, I sincerely hope that your WAN adventures exceed your wildest dreams.
Oh, and bring along a six-pack of Coke. I’d be interested to know if they get it.