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Vendors who want customers to put all their network eggs in their basket will argue that single-vendor, end-to-end networks yield operational consistency, higher service quality and better reliability. But that's just not true -- enterprises can significantly reduce their costs and simplify their operations by deploying gear from at least two vendors in their networks, according to a November 2010 report from Gartner.
Gartner compiled its data from "hundreds" of client interactions and in-depth interviews with nine public- and private-sector organizations ranging in size from 1,000 users to more than 10,000 employees in 1,000 locations.
DEBATE: Single, dual or multivendor?
In the report, Gartner takes specific aim at Cisco and its proclamations that an "end-to-end" Cisco network is simpler, cheaper and more reliable.
"The idea of a single-vendor network has been promoted by Cisco (just like strong vendors in other market areas) as a way to simplify operations, ensure reliability and lower the TCO [total cost of ownership] for a network infrastructure," state Gartner analysts Mark Fabbi and Debra Curtis in the report. "However, after interviewing various organizations that have introduced a second vendor into their Cisco infrastructures, it is clear that in most cases today there is no financial, operational or functional basis for this argument. The reality is that a single-vendor Cisco network isn't necessarily less complex, easier to manage or more reliable than a network with multiple vendors when implemented with best practices."
Gartner found that introducing a second networking vendor into an enterprise infrastructure will reduce total cost of ownership for most organizations by at least 15% to 25% over five years. And most organizations that introduced a second vendor reported a "lasting decrease" in network complexity "compared to an all-Cisco network," Gartner found.
"We did not encounter one example were [sic] operational cost savings would offset the equipment cost premium that Cisco generally charges," Fabbi and Curtis state in their report.
In every case reviewed by Gartner, the firm found that organizations did not require additional staff to manage a dual-vendor network compared with a Cisco network. Also, total initial capital costs and ongoing maintenance expenses were "clearly higher" in a Cisco-only network -- the interviewed organizations achieved capital cost savings of 30% to 50% less than competitive bids from Cisco; and savings on maintenance costs ranged from 40% to as much as 95% less than what was previously paid for Cisco's SMARTnet services for similar infrastructure and coverage, Gartner found.
"Sole-sourcing with any vendor will cost a minimum 20% premium, with potential savings generally reaching 30% to 50% or more of capital budgets when dealing with premium-priced vendors," Fabbi and Curtis state in the report. "Network architects and CIOs who don't re-evaluate long-held incumbent vendor decisions (with any vendor) on a periodic basis are not living up to fiduciary responsibilities to their organization."