Users don't really care what brand of networking hardware they use, a new survey has found.
According to research published last week by Banner, almost three in four (72%) IT decision makers don't know what make of switches, routers and other types of networking hardware they will be buying next year.
Banner found that the degree of brand loyalty varies according to supplier.
IBM users were the most faithful, with a third of those questioned for the survey saying they were considering sticking with the company. 3Com users were also relatively loyal. However, less than a quarter of Digital users said they wanted to continue using its products next year, and only 14% of users of leading supplier Cisco plan to stay with the company.
Banner's director of research, Joanna Bryant, described the results as "staggering" but cautioned that they did not necessarily reflect dissatisfaction with products. Many users, she said, simply don't care what make of kit they use because they rely on third-party resellers and systems integrators to install it. "Network users tend to use whatever works," explained Bryant.
"The brand is meaningless to them - unlike in the PC market."
However, this may be about to change. According to Bryant, networking hardware is becoming a volume market, "so building brand perception will be very important".
She said Cisco in particular suffers from poor loyalty because it relies heavily on the channel. She predicted that the company could shift its sales model away from the channel in the next two or three years to protect its market share.
Cisco denied such a strategy. "The leverage you get through the channel can't be underestimated," said Richard Bradley, the company's UK channel sales director. He added that Cisco relies on a dedicated corporate sales force, and is raising its profile among smaller businesses with a new advertising focus.
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