Supply problems at Cisco have left some customers waiting months for key Ethernet switches, firewalls and other network gear -- and those who can't wait are turning to competitors.

According to posts on the Cisco network service provider (Cisco-nsp) mailing list, customers have to wait at least a month for switches like the Catalyst 6500 and 4900s, and also are facing delays for ASA firewalls, Nexus switches, Catalyst 3560 switches and other products and accessories. Some customers report delivery lags by as much as four to six months.

The product delay problems have been a topic of discussion among financial analysts and others for months.

In some cases, customers are now opting for products from competitors because they can't wait for Cisco to deliver.

"We've actually cancelled orders with Cisco for [multiple Catalyst] 4948s (90 day lead time) and replaced them with another vendors switch (<2 week lead time)," posted one network/software engineer customer on the site.

Some product delays are due to changes in the hardware of the products. Shipments of Cisco's ASA firewall are delayed until late June because of a chipset change on all ASA products, another customer posted.

This situation led to competitor Sonicwall winning some firewall business that would have gone to Cisco, another posted. Others are opting for used gear from suppliers offering overnight shipping.

Network Hardware Resale, for example, advertises immediate delivery of supply-constrained Cisco products, with one-year warranties and support from Cisco-certified technicians.

Cisco is aware of the problem, which it apparently views as a good one to have.

"As we mentioned during our last quarterly conference call, we have experienced longer lead times on several of our products," a company spokesperson wrote in an email reply to our sister title Network World.

"This was the result of increased demand driven by the improvement in our overall markets. And, similar to what is happening in the entire industry we are seeing some product lead time extensions stemming from supplier constraints. We continue to build upon our strong relationships with our suppliers to proactively manage our supply chain and minimise any potential impact to our customers and partners."

But some analysts say the situation could backfire on Cisco.

"While an unexpected surge in demand that creates supply could be seen as a good thing, I think Cisco hasn't yet realised how the market dynamics are shifting," says Mark Fabbi, vice president and distinguished analyst for Enterprise Communications at Gartner.

"In the past their customers would be unhappy - but they would wait. Today, it is increasingly common for them to say fine - if Cisco can't supply Juniper or HP will. I've dealt with a number of clients that have come to this conclusion due to supply chain delays. Cisco is no longer the only game in town and not managing their lead times more appropriately will just drive business to their competitors."