In answer to heated criticism from resellers, Cisco has defended Shared Support (SSP), its latest maintenance and support programme.
One complaint from the channel has been that the vendor requires the serial number of each supported chassis, something not requested under the previous support programme, SIS 98.
But Michael Maigret, senior director of customer advocacy at Cisco EMEA, said: "I don't think we are getting this wrong. SSP is a significant change for Cisco and for our partners. This is not going to be a one-day or one-year event, but an evolution.
"As our partners move to SSP, they will have an installed base [where serial numbers may not be known], which we will support until March 2007.
"We request a serial number, but frankly it is optional. On a support call, we ask for the service contract number, the contract type, the site location and the serial number of the affected device. We will take any combination of the four."
Maigret claimed that under SSP, Cisco would capture the serial numbers of devices as they shipped to resellers.
Keith Humphreys, managing consultant at EuroLAN Research, said the fact that Cisco has not been recording serial numbers via its partners showed the immaturity of the market.
"Did Cisco partners know they had to get a serial number in the past?" he said.
"The big problem with SIS 98 was that the renewal rate was quite low.
"Cisco has addressed this with SSP, but how attractive is it going to be to renew?"
A senior source at a large Cisco reseller, who spoke to CRN last week but asked to remain anonymous, was more vocal.
"Shared Support is the bane of my life," the source said. "The resource, cost, and heartache required to implement it are overwhelming. This seems to have come from Cisco US, and Cisco in the UK is struggling to deal with it."
But Maigret denied this. He said SSP had been formulated with input from many Cisco theatres, including EMEA, and was not just a product of Cisco US.
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