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Government Networking Your Rights Online

Cisco Looking To Make Things Right With West Virginia 182

alphadogg writes "Cisco has offered to 'take back' routers it sold to West Virginia if the state finds they are inappropriate for its needs, according to a post on The offer is in response to a state auditor's finding (PDF) that West Virginia wasted $8 million — and perhaps as much as $15 million — in acquiring 1,164 ISR model 3945 branch routers from Cisco in 2010 for $24 million in federal stimulus funds, or over $20,000 per router. The auditor found that hundreds of sites around the state — libraries, schools and State Police facilities — could have been just as suitably served with lower-end, less expensive routers."
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Cisco Looking To Make Things Right With West Virginia

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  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @03:46AM (#43059461) Homepage

    A router?! A computer that is dedicated to the purpose of moving data along a network path and/or deciding which network paths based on some rules and protocols.

    Maybe I'm missing something here, but it seems to me one of the industry's biggest shams is the gross overvaluation of Cisco networking. Is it really so much better than all the others or are they cloaked in so much brand naming and the hallowed process by which people become "certified" that people forget what the actual purpose of Cisco's stuff is?

    • by chrylis ( 262281 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @03:58AM (#43059517)

      Both, depending largely on the particular devices in question. In recent years, general-purpose CPUs have gotten so fast and buses so efficient that a quad-core Xeon running a Linux-based routing system (such as Vyatta) can allegedly handle 10G line speed for a few ports, and PCI cards are widely available for DSx and other interfaces that used to require standalone routers. That said, you can't do line-speed 10G to 720 ports without serious custom hardware, and while Cisco's stuff is still overpriced for the capability compared to HP or Juniper, it's not the sort of outrageous ripoff that the ISR series is.

      • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

        The lowend cisco devices are just general purpose processors, and usually not even very highend ones at that. Their firewalls are the same too, generic low spec x86 servers that will routinely have a fraction of the processing power of the servers sat behind them.
        It's only the highend that's worth having, and really highend routers are quite a niche market.

        • by chrylis ( 262281 )

          Skipping the former-Linksys-style low-low end, the ISRs have an unusual hybrid processing strategy; most routing in even a 2900 is done in custom hardware rather than on the processor (which is, IIRC, a PowerPC 700-series), which couldn't handle the throughput that the ISRs can. This does have the advantage of lower power consumption/heat and thus greater reliability, but if someone starts producing a generic TCAM-based forwarding plane that can be programmed via OpenFlow [], Cisco's low-end lunch is eaten.

      • Except that general purpose CPUs are overkill to use as mere routers - the CPU can do several different types of jobs, whereas a router simply needs something that can transfer packets from one network to another, and do that really fast. That's why you want whatever silicon the hardware has to be dedicated to doing just that. Having multi cores would be really valuable if there were also the ports to go w/ it - a router is normally not the bottleneck as far as fast data transfers go. Although I wonder w
        • by chrylis ( 262281 )

          Sure, a modern x86 (or even ARM) CPU is overkill, but that's not the same thing as saying it doesn't make the most sense economically. It's the same reason that manufacturers use identical PCBs for whole lines of motherboards and graphics cards even if the lower-end models leave half the pads empty: It's cheaper to waste a bit on overkill than to make a special-purpose product that requires different tooling/NRE. Compare what an entry-level Ethernet-only ISR costs to the x86 computer you'd need to do the

    • Some routers are worth $20k, but obviously a school will never need one of these.. The question is why they were sold to schools; was it fraud by Cisco? was it a badly designed procurement process? was it corruption?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SomePgmr ( 2021234 )

        Cisco claims they were instructed to provide a quote for routing devices with features like, "redundant power supplies", and just provided a list of the devices that qualified. The state denies these requirments.

        Put simply, they put together a sheet with 1,164 of the same exact device. One for every location, and wrote off the gross oversizing to future-proofing. That meant a big municipal facility would get one of these $20k machines, which was probably unnecessary, but the one room shack they call a "libr

        • I don't think Cisco is at fault here. They're not a charity. I blame the poor sap that signed off on the PR. Of course Cisco is going to try and patch this up as it's generating bad publicity for not doing anything wrong.
          • by dbIII ( 701233 )
            They are at fault. If an honest person was doing the deal they would let the customer know they didn't need such gold plated kit if only to avoid such a backlash and to ensure repeat business.
            • by silas_moeckel ( 234313 ) <silas&dsminc-corp,com> on Sunday March 03, 2013 @09:29AM (#43060683) Homepage

              You apparently have never dealt with government RFP's, you have to meet the specs and have no input on them or visibility as to what they are for. They specked a single device that could run voip with PSTN fallback, wan acceleration (WAAS is cisco's version of that same), and an embedded managed switch with POE. The device they came back with is the only one that fits all those requirements. The issue squarely lies with the people that wrote the RFP.

              • by khallow ( 566160 )

                You apparently have never dealt with government RFP's,

                You do know that it is possible, via bribes and lobbying, to steer RFPs.

        • by amorsen ( 7485 )

          The problem is that the many of those sites were getting fiber out there. The state wanted a single device that could handle both the legacy T1's and the new fiber connections. Cisco really ought to have told them to go with whatever their cheapest T1 model is these days and then replace the router when the fiber is actually installed. Cisco is certainly to blame for not doing anything to help out.

          However, the state is certainly to blame for not letting someone with a little bit of experience take a look at

          • Cisco really ought to have told them to go with whatever their cheapest T1 model is these days and then replace the router when the fiber is actually installed. Cisco is certainly to blame for not doing anything to help out

            I have not looked into the matter at all but there may have been some budgetary consideration for spending all the money at once. None of this justifies spending so very much money.

    • Absolutely. Cisco products are premium, and while it might look like less expensive products can do the job, you'll regret not having a top tier product in the end! Spent the extra thousand now and save time and headache later.

      - Monster Marketing Team

    • by sheehaje ( 240093 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @05:51AM (#43059853)

      Looking at Cisco from a hardware perspective, yes they are overvalued and there are less expensive, comparable options out there.

      However, I will say a few things in Cisco's defense - I've worked with Cisco, Dell PowerConnect, ProCurve, Avaya and Nortel -- hands down, when I do run into problems, Cisco is the easiest to troubleshoot for. Mainly finding documentation/community help is much easier. Finding technicians that actually know what they are doing is easier.

      The other thing I would like to say is that Cisco is not always as expensive as people want to portray them. A lot of time, things like West Virginia happen - the options aren't investigated properly, and you end up with a 20K router... A great example is before I got to my job, they were buying all 3550 switches for the wiring closets.. We didn't need a layer 3 switch in a closet, so we started ordering 2560 (the next gen model in that series) and significantly cut costs.

      Another example of ours, we had implemented Cisco Wireless in one of our locations, but for another location were sold an Avaya on the promise that it performed just as well and would be cheaper. The later proved true - but by a small margin. Performance and support has been an issue since day 1. Trying to find engineers inside Avaya that know their own devices like a comparable Cisco engineer is few and far between.

      The last thing people don't realize - you don't always need a smartnet.. We don't order them for all our wiring closet switches anymore - we just keep our latest round of switches on SmartNet. Cisco Catalyst does have a LIFETIME warranty on the hardware... The same thing that HP Procurve tries to sell customers hard... Core switches, we absolutely keep on 24/7 4 hour Smartnet ... Wiring closets, and branch routers... nah... we can just keep a spare or two, they are cheap enough. Replace when needed, send back for lifetime warranty...

      With this said, I'm not always rosy on Cisco. We did a VoIP project about 3 years ago, and going with another vendor (Mitel in our case) gave us significant savings. I'm just saying that they get the overvalued label a lot, and yes, if you are just looking from a hardware perspective yes. If you are looking at the whole training, support, community and logistics angle - Cisco definitely has the leg up on any other networking company.

      • you don't always need a smartnet

        Try downloading software without it. You might have a hardware warranty, but that doesn't include software updates.

    • by amorsen ( 7485 )

      There are perfectly good Cisco routers available which can handle the West Virginia requirements, you just need two routers instead of one. The combined cost is much much lower than the cost of a 3945.

      If West Virginia had gone with Juniper the story would have been exactly the same -- except with Juniper the choice would have been between a J-series which is close to EOL and at least as expensive as a 3945, or an MX series which would have been even more expensive.

    • I'm guessing a considerable chunk of that 20k $ will have been for deployment, configuration and subsequent support. IANANE (Not A Network Engineer) but in typical situations in software engineering, the hardware costs are pretty low compared to the wages for the programmers, architects and maintenance crew.

  • by kermidge ( 2221646 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @03:48AM (#43059477) Journal

    For whatever the reasons Cisco makes this offer, it's the right thing to do. Just as sucking the Federal teat (hey, it's just bidness, everybody does it) was the wrong thing to do. To really make things right, they'd also offer to find the state suitable routers, at cost, and set'em up as well.

    If I was the state, I'd be taking a close look at conscientious civil servant who approved the original deal. "Misappropriation of public monies" has a nice ring to it on a résumé.

    • Re:the right thing (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @04:28AM (#43059631)

      . To really make things right, they'd also offer to find the state suitable routers, at cost, and set'em up as well.

      Cisco's not a charity -- the management who approved the mistaken design, and the firm that designed and selected inappropriate router choices, should have to deal with this.

      It's not Cisco's job to stop you from buying equipment that can do more than what you need it to do right now.

    • Cisco was caught red handed !

      Before the auditor report came out, did Cisco volunteer to do whatever it wants to do now?

      If Cisco did, I'll applaud Cisco for doing the right thing

      If Cisco didn't do nothing, and pretended that nothing wrong had ever been done in this $20K per router for library deal, before the auditor report became public, hey, Cisco wasn't such a nice guy afterall !!

    • This is both a government story and a West Virginia story... where are Hanlon and his beardcutter?
      • Had Robert C Byrd been around, he'd have gone ballistic over WV being denied those high end routers, and given one of his inane senate speeches
  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @04:14AM (#43059587)
    A good salesman will get all the tech people convinced that they need his cool stuff that will work well for a good price. A great salesman goes right to the top and convinces the top(non technical) people (with white papers like this week's pole) A truly great salesman will even eliminate the tech people and replace them with his own so that the new tech people will not only support every suggestion but will become a sales force in their own right.

    I am willing to bet that no serious tech person had anything to do with this and if they did that they are Cisco certified up the ying yang. Just a guess but that the decision to purchase these came from very near the very top and the person was totally chuffed to be running a multi-million dollar project and was convinced that their tech wienies would be way out of their "depth" on this one.

    Assuming some tech guy did protest they were probably told that their suggested routers were mere toys and that to play with the big boys that you needed serious hardware.

    One of the greatly overlooked solutions is that your networking demands are so small that quite old solutions can be very effective. As long as the system can be remotely administrated you would be hard pressed to buy old hardware that didn't meet the rest of the system's requirements. 100,000 users you need the big guns. 100 users you probably need one step up from a home router.
    • by jsepeta ( 412566 )

      with the exception that even locations with 100 users will need to be managed in a statewide system comprising thousands of users. so it's worth a little more dough up front to make the system as homogeneous as possible, so that it's easier to manage remotely.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @05:22AM (#43059769)

    Cisco, and others, were specifically looking for government pork: []

    Cisco is looking for about $1 billion in federal bailout money, according to a report in the Raleigh, N.C., News & Observer. The company expects the U.S. government to fork over $47 billion to high-tech.

    Bruce Klein, a Cisco senior vice president, is charged with making sure Cisco gets that share of the money. Cisco can't receive it directly, but only through projects tied to local and state governments that are financed by the stimulus funds, the N&O reports.

    So Klein put together teams across Cisco to identify business opportunities with local and state government agencies and other public sector organizations.

    Cisco is not alone in looking to capitalize on the influx federal stimulus funds. General Electric and IBM are also lining up stimulus-backed government contracts, the N&O reports.

    But should companies shipping jobs to offshore facilities and contractors be eligible to bid on contracts financed by federal stimulus funds?

    • by Skapare ( 16644 )

      But this is also a company that is holding off transferring money from overseas back to the US to avoid paying taxes on it.

  • Installation and labor?

    Did that not get built in to the bid?

    • by 6ULDV8 ( 226100 )

      Installation and labor might be covered in the monthly recurring cost of connectivity that Verizon is supplying.

  • Take back at full price? or a low used price that you can get more for them on e-bay.

  • by Nyder ( 754090 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @01:41PM (#43062241) Journal

    How exactly does a router cost $20k? Granted this was in 2010, but how exactly is it that expensive? Special government price? How much would it cost someone else to buy that router?

    And honestly, it's time to check all the books of all the states and start punishing the people who overpriced and sold stuff to the government, and also punish the idiots who accepted those prices and purchases. Corporations needs to be put in check.

    • by chrylis ( 262281 )

      Saying "a router" is like saying "a computer" or "a car"; they're not all the same, and while you can get "a computer" for $300 at Best Buy, you probably wouldn't blink at seeing a price in the mid 4 figures for a decent server. The beefy ISP or big-corporation-datacenter routers can quite easily go for 6 figures. Apparently, in this case the $20k figure was a combination of a bad RFP that demanded an all-in-one device (ports on routers are much, much more expensive than the same ports on switches) with a

  • I guess we have to give the money back now, and pretend our hand ended up in your pocket by accident. You believe us, right?

"An open mind has but one disadvantage: it collects dirt." -- a saying at RPI