We used an ASA security appliance at our colocation facility and after 5 years it began to behave. Nothing dramatic, but a hard reboot once in a while was required. So I decided not to wait until it fails completely and bought a replacement unit just in case. Same exact model, same exact license.
After about 4 months, the original unit went unresponsive completely. Fortunately it was a Saturday and I was well prepared for this, having a brand new replacement unit and a fresh backup of the configuration settings on flash drive. Or at least I thought I was.
After booting up the new ASA I was in for a surprise. It had a firmware version that would not load my configuration from the backup. They changed the format and dropped the backward compatibility over two minor version firmware upgrades (from 8.2 to 8.4).
I called technical support and they cheerfully told me that the unit's warranty support had already expired. I couldn't believe my ears. The manufacturing date on the unit was a mere 7 months ago and I didn't register the unit yet. How could it possibly expire? Turned out this particular unit came with a 90 day warranty and it was activated by the seller immediately upon the sale. The fact that a company as large and successful as Cisco sells units with 90 day of support in 2015 is perplexing, but it wasn't the worst part.
When I asked how could I obtain the out-of-warranty support, I was given a link to a web site that lists Cisco partners in my close vicinity. Basically they told me to wait until Monday, find some company, and engage in a perpetual service contract with them to deal with my immediate need to restore access to my servers. I offered to pay for a quick conversation with a technician, but they told me that without the service contract they cannot even submit a trouble ticket.
Fortunately, being a Cisco user for some time, I knew how to restore the configuration manually, via the command line interface. It still took me a couple of hours to figure out the minor changes to the command syntax, but eventually the unit was ready to go. Or at least I thought it was.
Upon connection it greeted me with a "licence violation" message. For the second time, I stared at the screen in disbelief. It was exactly the same license as the original unit had. But it had one little change. The number of inside hosts was limited to 10, while the original unit license didn't have this limitation at all. And this was unfortunately a deal breaker. I could not just magically reduce the number of inside hosts.
I was able to request to talk to a licensing specialist, who wrote me an email a day later giving me a link to a web site that lists Cisco partners in my close vicinity. But there was no way to either transfer the license from the old unit or lift the limit short of buying a much more expensive license from some Cisco reseller.
So in summary:
1. Cisco releases the same exact product model with backwards incompatible firmware versions.
2. Cisco has a laughable 90 day support window, after which there is no way to obtain support in any reasonable time frame.
3. Cisco changes the license terms without changing the license, making it impossible to replace a failed unit with its "exact" copy.
4. Cisco representatives expressed zero interest in helping me with the issues that were caused by their own unsavory practices.
So, this is it for me. No more Cisco. In our day and age companies like that should not exist.