Our stories and blog on the California State University network refresh RFP generated many comments - 106 at last count -- both in support of CSU's findings on Cisco's pricing and in disbelief. Alcatel-Lucent won the contract with a bid of $22 million; Cisco was the high bidder with a proposal just under $123 million.
One particular reader issued a series of questions of their own, challenging the objectivity and credibility of Michel Davidoff, CSU's director of cyberinfrastructure and our source for the stories, and of this Network World author. We posed that reader's questions back to CSU, and here's the verbatim response from Erik Fallis, media relations manager in CSU Public Affairs:
1. First, did I understand the RFP correctly and describe the design requests accurately in my coverage to date? Did I understand correctly how each vendor responded and describe that accurately in my coverage?
The technical aspects were correct. However, the contract does not obligate the CSU to replace all existing equipment one for one with Alcatel-Lucent equipment. What the RFP guaranteed is pricing.
2. It appears as if CSU is ending a 10 year relationship with Cisco as a result of this process. Is that true?
The CSU selected the bidder that had the highest technical score and the lowest cost. Firms may have the low bid in one cycle and the high bid in the other. CSU technical needs can also change over time. This is the very reason that public agencies go through periodic public bidding and promote open competition.
The CSU continues to have a good working relationship with Cisco, and the university will continue to use their routers and switches for at least another 3 to 4 years as the new equipment is installed.
Cisco also continues to provide equipment and support for various other campus capabilities.
3. Was that true before the RFP was issued? Was Cisco ruled out of the running even before they responded to the RFP?
The process was fair, and all bidders (including Cisco) were provided the opportunity to demonstrate their technical and pricing terms.
4. Did the bid ask for the same design for each campus? As I understood it, four access switches, two server farm, two core and two border routers per campus, with 24 to 480 ports... But wouldn't campus sizes and hence requirements vary widely (i.e., Humboldt vs. L.A.)?
Yes, we did ask for the same design - two border routers, two cores routers/switches, two server farm switches and a variable number of access layer switches depending on the campus.
This framework was for evaluation purposes, actual deployment will depend on campus needs.
5. Did the vendors have to respond with a total product and maintenance BOM and pricing or did CSU make those calculations itself?
The vendors provided all the list pricing and the discount pricing. The CSU made the necessary calculations from there.
6. Why was Alcatel-Lucent so much lower than all of the other bidders?
The nature of competitive bidding is that prices vary, and the bidders determine their offer price. The CSU concern is that the selected bidder is capable of meeting the university's technical need and represents the wisest use of resources.
7. Is CSU confident that they will remain financially solvent over the contract period given the financial straits the company as a whole is in? There is persistent speculation that Alcatel-Lucent will divest itself of the enterprise business due to its financial situation -- is this of concern to CSU?
This is not a concern.
8. Did CSU consider extending the life of its existing networks to save money?
9. Would it have been more cost effective to extend your current infrastructure?
We also asked CSU about San Jose State University's decision to go in another direction and award Cisco a $28 million, five-year contract for that school's new infrastructure. Specifically, we asked whether that project was put out for bid. Fallis referred us back to SJSU Media Relations and, at the time of this blog's posting, we had not heard back from them.
We did, however, hear back from Cisco. They declined a third opportunity to comment on this situation and tell their side of the story.
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