Subscriber Discussion

Cisco Video Surveillance Business 2014 Discussed

Just got an email blast Reed Expo. I guess Cisco is still in the camera bidness?

[UPDATE: This discussion has evolved into a sophisticated review of Cisco's problems and progress in the video surveillance market.]

They have a 20' x 30' booth:

I believe they were at ASIS last year as well.

Recall the Cisco Reboots Video Surveillance initiative.

The problem is nobody respects or fears Cisco's video surveillance offering, after so many years of comic failing. That does not mean they can't succeed (or at least get better) but they have an uphill battle ahead of them.

We have members here that won't even darken the booth's carpet for less than a $20 meal voucher.

I can honestly tell you that if Cisco decides to make full hearted run into this business it would have a huge impact. Having worked for a large Cisco partner for many years I have seen the machine in action and it is impressive! They know the networking side and they have all of the relationships with all of the decision makers and have for decades.

The ability of their demand generation and sales force to create, discover and close large scale projects is phenominal. All it would take is for them to aquire a top tier IP camera manufacturer, a top 5 VMS and a high end access provider and it would be game over. They did it with VOIP and they could do it with Physical Security and it would be a drop in the bucket for them. They spend over $6 Billion a year on R&D, just think what could be developed with a 10th of that budget in our industry.

I just don't think that their heart is in it..yet.

Buy Avigilon! :) Kidding, but not really...

Cisco offers $2.5 billion USD, who says no?

In all seriousness, I agree if they acquired a top tier player (or two), they could use the machine and be a real force.

For those who don't remember, and this is going back, my goodness, 8 years, they bought 2 surveillance companies - Sypixx and Broadware - one a fairly raw startup, the other a dotcom retread. The rest was unpleasant history.

Yes, obviously someone had not done their homework and someone else made alot of money off of what looks like some bad investments on Cisco's part. What they need is something that is actually viable, stable and already established. And on the access side, they need to buy someone with access to Mercury panels so they can takeover other compeitors with ease. One other issue they know how hard it is to get a traditional Phy Sec firm to understand networking, it is 10 times harder to get a network firm to understand access and video. You would not think so, but they are not wired like us! Start talking REX motions and forced opens and their head about explodes. So while they have a vast amount of resellers that understand tech, they have very few that understand physical security.

"it is 10 times harder to get a network firm to understand access and video"

Not to digress but... Everyone is different, and there are of course exceptions in both directions, but generally speaking this has not been what I have experienced. Maybe my experience was unique though. Either way it just depends on the quality (or lack) of the people. Good people on either side can pick things up easy enough. Not so good people on either side, many times aren't really even that good at their primary. Always exceptions though; This is just my humble opinion and experience.


You know IT guys who are not afraid to get their hands dirty doing actual physical installations? Climbing on ladders or using manlifts/scissor lifts? Pulling cables?


Damn straight. (from a bias IT guy, mid-sized shop, higher-ed) Practically anyone on any of my teams is willing and able to do whatever. In addition to their normal "duties" which they are very good at, everyone is willing to help each other out. No one is above doing or learning whatever it takes if that’s what is needed at that time for their or their team members operations or projects. Hot, cold, inside, outside, underground, at height including tower/rope access. None of those I'm cool, I barely know what I'm doing, and I spend more time on my hair than actual work IT folks here. :) (and unfortunately that is seen by a quick look at our hair styling)

Fine, I succumb that my world is apparently not the norm. I can’t deny that I have met plenty of the people I just made fun of above and that unfortunately some of you/we have to deal with. A lot of the ‘extra’ things we do have grown out of outside integrators not being up to par in a more modern phy sec world. That’s not to say anything about the industry as a whole of course. There are great people on both “sides”; there are crappy people on both sides. Here, we just try to get rid of the sides, pull it together, do what works best for this place and delivers high quality. Usually works out. We’ve been able to do some cool things.

To pull this back on track a bit, we are a big Cisco shop on the net and voice side, and a little on the server side. Cisco is a big machine, they are pretty good at a handful of things. Many things however they aren't necessarily great at and I'm not convinced they'll ever become a big player in phy sec. Their MO is, as has been stated here, is usually to gobble up some big players, chew on it a bit and incorporate them into the machine (can take years) and sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. Phy sec is just too on the periphery of where their focus is right now.

"Many things however they aren't necessarily great at and I'm not convinced they'll ever become a big player in phy sec..... Phy sec is just too on the periphery of where their focus is right now."

Same here. However, to play devil's advocate, clearly, Cisco cares about video. So will Cisco view / treat video surveillance as a type of video or as a branch of physical security?

I was at their executive briefing/demo center in San Jose a couple of years ago and nearly all anyone spoke about was their high priority on video so you nailed it with that comment. Then to now, I have seen little to indicate plans of pulling video surveillance-style video into their other video initiatives. (but that's doesn't mean it doesn't exist) I have to admit, though both are video, it had never even crossed my mind to think of VS as a possibility in their big video push which is largely collaboration, social media, entertainment based. (and I've not seem much out of the social side of that either). That said, a quick Google of "Cisco Video" yields this link which has a somewhat fuzzy pitch of their VS offering.

I'm not sure which BU their VS is in. I'll have to check on that as you have me curious now. It varies but plenty of their BU's don't exactly play well together for plenty of non-technical reasons which could be another factor.

I am pretty sure Cisco has video surveillance in their physical security business unit. Related, I have no idea why they have their own access control system as the money potential is super low as well as the bandwidth generation.

I guess I may have misstated or exaerrated my opinions on the difficulty of network firms to work in the PhySec arena. I apologize if I offended anyone. In my experience it is not so much of understanding the technical side, or willingness to get dirty, but there are many aspects such as the ability to install door hardware (powered panics, cut in a strike) and even the way our industry does business in comparison to how deals are done in the networking world. As an example, most of the time we deal with cost when dealing with manufacturers, while in Ciscos world they deal with discount from MSRP. And you are dealing with multiple VARs on the same deal and realistically the. Cisco rep already knows who he wants to win the deal because he has positioned the discounts in favor of one or two resellers. While that goes on on our side to some extent, on the Cisco side it is very cutthroat. Believe me, I work inside a very large Cisco shop, we talk very differently when it comes to deals.

These are just my experiences, I am sure there are many examples on both sides.

"Cisco rep already knows who he wants to win the deal because he has positioned the discounts in favor of one or two resellers."

Undisclosed, thanks. Can you elaborate on this? How steep are the discount variances? Presumably that's enough to determine the whole deal including services?


I hope you're not that naive. Not naming names but many times I've been quoted pricing by one distributor that is below what I know to be our regular distributor's cost. On such occasions, I've revealed the lowball price to our chosen distributor who can often negotiate the same price. Manufacturers' reps often have the power to steer business to a specific distributor by negotiating deals with the manufacturer.

I also know that this happens between manufacturers and certain Integrators. In fact, in this case, I will name names: Honeywell gives far better pricing to North American Video than to just about any other Integrator. Once upon a time we elicited quotes on Honeywell HE8 encoders for our old system. NAV was around $1,000 less than their competitors.

So in security, generally those discounts are based on volume / overall purchasing. NAV gets better pricing because they probably do more business than most integrators.

Undisclosed seems to be insinuating that Cisco picks and chooses discount levels on individuals deals to the extent that it determines the outcome. This is not as common in security, even when factoring in modest discounts one may get from project registration.

I dont want to give away the farm for my counterparts but it is very similar to what we see if we get preferred pricing on a projet, only steeper when necessary. And the way the tiers are setup it can be a big advantage over the competition if you are discounted at a higher tier and have some additional special pricing.

I had a very deep discount on Cisco Phy Sec gear when up against two top tier platforms, so much so that I left more money on the table come bid day than most of my competitors had in profit in the deal. It was a project that they wanted, and they got it, and I still made more than I normally would on a project that size.

First off this post is assuming the product is decent. As an end user I would LOVE it if Cisco got their act together and started hitting up the IT guys on the CCTV front. IT has actual money and we do not. Not only that, but if they bought the product they would be “responsible” for it and would jump on any issues PDQ.

If Cisco stared pushing it hard and got the IT guys to buy in and start slapping up cameras everywhere I would save a substantial amount of cash a year that could go towards other issues. Also, not having to piecemeal projects one or two cameras at a time when I can afford it would be a nice change.

Doesn’t matter though since Google will own everything three or four years from now…….

They just finished putting hundreds of Cisco cameras in some hospitals here, and I have been helping the security staff figure out how to use the CISCO VMS 7.xx. It seems to run smoothly, I don't have much opportunity to play with other VMS systems so I don't have a good comparative reference.

Yes, the IT guys aren't really hook and ladder types, which is good for me so far :)!

Cisco made 3 (4? 5?) acquisitions before their VPN solution worked. They rebuilt the PIX from the bucket of PC bolts it was at time of acquisition into a whole product today. If indeed Cisco is "only" on their first re-tread of their physical security acquisition then you gotta give the beast some time before you start assuming you know what it's doing. Yeah, that means that John's Avigilon acquisition comment is not in fact crazy, in my opinion.

"Yeah, that means that John's Avigilon acquisition comment is not in fact crazy, in my opinion."

Yikes, I did not think anyone would take me seriously ;)

On that topic then, Axis would be a better fit, because (1) more advanced product line - lots of high end cameras and (2) because a huge strength of Avigilon is their contrarian dealer model which Cisco would rip up after an acquisition anyway.

We were one of the few, if not only, gold partners with an already established PhySec practice When we were installing Cisco PhySec. I can't tell you how many times I received a call from a Cisco AM asking me to jump on a conference call with an end user that I had never talked to before and within 30 days it was a large deal. I got a call one Friday at 3pm asking me to put budget numbers on a 4. Story project for cameras and access by 6PM. As you imagine, the numbers were very budgetary as I have little time and even less info. I basically had a floor plan and a 30 minute conversation. I had a POin hand for the budgetary amount the following Wednesday. People love Cisco, and the adage goes "No one has ever been fired for choosing Cisco."

When Cisco developed VOIP is bought a few small company's and as I understand pieced it all together and it was very clunky and problematic the first few years. Then they developed on top of that and now VoIP is a billion dollar business or more!

I had the opportunity to sit down with some of the top people in the PhySec segment several years back in a private open forum at ISC to discuss what we thought of the phySec offerings. At the time they were still staying that they had 30 day warranty on cameras, and people had to buy smartnet to get a warranty. This is a practice that Cisco has on all of their products and to them it is just the way to do business. I mentioned it and said that it is hard to compete with manufacturers that had a 3 year warranty out of the box and free tech support. I was told that that it works for voip phones it will work for cameras. I replied that Cisco developed VoIP, we have been installing these cameras for 20+ years before you were even a company. Not sure that was received well.

I told them i thought they needed to aquire a top player in the VSM market and on the access side as well so they could have a good starting point and build from there. I threw out names like Milestone and ONSSI and at the time both firms were doing well, but by ciscos perspective they were both small. They basically stated that they didn't think either of those firms would be around in 3-5 years and I felt they we basing that on the fact that they were generating a lot of revenue in comparison to what these folks were used to seeing on their product lines. Basically, why would we consider someone that small...

I had also heard that a deal was in the works itch Axis but it got pulled at a very high level by someone who decided that they were jot going to spend that kind of money to buy a company that makes end points. Who knows if that was ever true, but at the time it seemed like the right thing to do.

Get it together Cisco! I want it to work!

Cisco's strength in this area is bandwith management and security. If you want to build a large shared network with video and other services in the same network. Then multicast and admission control (RSVP) for bandwith management is good to have, further you need to manage the network security with a lot of cameras places evereywhere.

The only question is, will this be needed? The alternative solution is separate video networks and an abundance of network capacity and at this time it seams to be cheaper. I dont know if Cisco will put their heart into it until this change, but I do believe that they think it will... someday.

We could all spend hours talking about Cisco's clunky and arrogant entrance into IP Video. I could tell you some stories....

That said, the new Version 7 works. I have personally designed, installed, and trained on the new platform. My team has resurrected Version 6 systems and restored confidence to end users that were in complete despair over the failed promises from prior integrators and AMs.

It's not perfect, but each new release fixes problems and adds features. For example, I'm viewing cameras from our internal demo system on my Android tablet right now. That's not a huge leap for most VMS platforms, but for those that have been through what we have it's a big deal.

A working product, coupled with the Cisco brand, means that they are a major player. IT directors run security now and they'll continue to insist upon Cisco Physec, but now they'll have a working product with few compromises.

Thomas, thanks for the feedback! Btw, are you using their cameras or third party ones? How are they working?

Cisco works best with Cisco cameras. The new 3000 and 6000 series cameras are stable and have plenty of features. They have a long way to go towards offering all the different options an end user wants, but the core lines cover most of what you need for a traditional deployment.

We've successfully integrated Sony and Axis as well, but those require third party licenses with yearly software support and the drivers are mostly generic. It works fine but with limited functionality.

"IT directors run security now and they'll continue to insist upon Cisco Physec..." No matter how much the magazines tout it, this is far from true. I have yet to meet a large or mid siszed end user where Security falls under the IT umbrella. Granted I only have direct contact with about twenty or thirty of my peers (the one thing ASIS has helped with), but they all fall under HR or Facilities. Not a one reports to IT.

This is off topic though so I won't go into it more here, but this would be an interesting topic of it own.

My comment was likely a little too sweeping. We deal with a lot of IT directors here, and increasingly we notice that they call the shots for physical security upgrades. Even when IT is not in charge they'll control the network, which gives them a lot of power. You're right that security magazines overstate this.

I have not seen a Cisco surveillance system in the wild, only a sporadic number of physical access control systems. In my region, they never had a strong push or pusher in physec.

I say that to qualify this question: Is the formative opinion that Cisco's previous platforms were junk a little-known 'early adopter' type of opinion, or do most end users feel this way as well?

Most of the end users in my area would have no idea "Cisco does video" and would not be negatively biased to the brand if pitched it.

I, for one, would never consider a Cisco surveillance system. In 2006, at the invitation of Pete Jankowski, I visited Cisco's Carlsbad California research center (now closed?) to get a demo of the SyPixx system. Even in their optimal environment, the system obviously underperformed and lacked many features that other systems had even back then.

When I expressed my negative opinions at the lack of features and poor GUI, the Cisco "suits" who surrounded me kept saying, in essence, "But we're Cisco", as if that mattered. That attitude was a major turnoff for me and I walked away shaking my head.

In my vertical, it is extremely rare for video to ride on the corporate domain so I don't have to deal with our IT department's biases.

"When I expressed my negative opinions at the lack of features and poor GUI, the Cisco "suits" who surrounded me kept saying, in essence, "But we're Cisco", as if that mattered. That attitude was a major turnoff for me and I walked away shaking my head."

I saw that same pattern repeatedly with them. It was basically, "It doesn't matter how bad our product is.... We're Cisco"

I will say the new team is far more humble and realistic in my interactions with them, so perhaps they have learned some lessons.

Maybe so, maybe not. Elephants tend to have huge momentum and rarely change direction without a really good reason. I would much rather deal with a small-to-medium size company with a history of satisfying customers than a big entity. What you typically get with the latter is an attempt to cram your project into their one-size-fits-all solution rather than designing a solution to fit your needs. Cisco, Pelco, Honeywell, Sony et al fit into the latter mold.