This week, we announced General Availability of the OneConnect Universal Converged Network Adapter (UCNA) and OneCommand Manager, our network convergence management framework.
Today’s blog is not about the product, but rather the launch process, contrasted to the real season, when games count. I know we are supposed to be a global company, and I should be probably be using analogies to what the rest of the world considers to be football (soccer) versus NFL football, but it is NFL football season here in the U.S., so please bear with me.
Product launches are much like getting ready for the NFL season. You hope that the players have worked out during the off-season to be ready for training camp. If they are not, then you put them on a rigorous get-in-shape regimen and drive them hard to get ready for the season. You look at the moves other teams (competitors) have made, new strategies they are likely to implement and how they will defend against you. When they attack your company, your products, your history, your future, it is all fair game during the season. Just ask the Cowboys’ Tony Romo– I bet he wishes he never dated Jessica Simpson or brought her to a game!
The Preseason with Analysts and Press
The preseason is the right time to wring out the game plan and see if your story, products and messages resonate or get ridiculed. Sometimes this is a humbling process, and often it is a fun one, but it is always educational. You learn quickly what puts people to sleep, what they find intriguing and what you wish you never said. This is a vital part of the launch process, because it really helps separate the signal from the noise.
The Launch Event
The stands are filled and the crowd is roaring. The ball is about to be kicked off and you are on stage, or more likely, webcast, these days. The team is tense, tired and excited, all at the same time. The months of nights, weekends and long hours are about to be put to use. For the OneConnect and OneCommand launch, we kicked off in a big way with three global events on three continents in 24 hours, starting in Frankfurt at SNW, in New York at our investor relations analyst day and in Beijing at our channel partner conference.
Trash Talk: Time to Put Up
Trash talk is essential and integral to competition in every game, and there has been plenty of that leading up to this launch. We all jockey for position and leadership in the market, but that time has passed and it is time to stop talking and start playing.
Trash Talk #1: Emulex is late to market.
Game Day Reality: We are right where we want to be, on target for the major 10GbE server transition.
Trash Talk #2: The product does not exist.
Game Day Reality: You can buy it now in the channels and from IBM. Did they think this was really a competitive strategy, since we qualify with the same OEMs? Our competitors knew this was wrong.
Trash Talk #3: They don’t own the chip.
Game Day Reality: The world’s biggest OEMs have qualified our OneConnect product for 10Gb network interface card (NIC), iSCSI and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) uses (see the IBM Web site). The only people that seem to have a problem with our product are our competitors. Who do you want to listen to? Besides you really didn’t expect them to say nice things about us, right?
For me, the reality check is to look at the “quality of the trash talking.” If the only things our competitors can talk trash about have nothing to do with the product features, capabilities or functions, they can trash talk all they want. To me, this means that they don’t have competitive advantages where it counts—in their products or business model. Maybe their products are trash, and all they have is talk?
It’s the Final Score that Counts
We have said this many times: the network convergence market is not going to happen overnight. This year has been the year of OEM qualifications, and 2010 will be the year of network convergence program pilots and budgeting, and the market transition will kick off with production deployments as we move into 2011. The pre-season is over and the real game begins now. We won’t know the final score for a while. It is time to start working for the market share playoffs. In 2006, when asked if his Pittsburgh Steelers could win the Super Bowl, coach Bill Cohwer replied, “I like our chances.” That is how I feel about the network convergence market. We are prepared, we have had a great pre-season, we have the right product, at the right time, with the right partners and the best business model. So yeah, I like our chances.