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Why it's time to break out of the 'Cisco-is-the-only-vendor-for-me' mindset

Nortel argues for best-of-breed vendors

Wide Area Networking Alert By Steve Taylor and , Network World
December 04, 2007 12:06 AM ET
Jim Metzler
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Insightful analysis by consultants Steve Taylor and Jim Metzler, plus links to the latest WAN news headlines

Network World - For the last two newsletters (see here and here) we've heard the thoughts of Ben Goldman, Cisco's director of marketing, network systems, who argues for moving to a single-vendor network. But there is far from universal agreement that such a network is a good idea - there are also some quite significant reasons why a multivendor best-of-breed network can be the "best" solution.

To present the “counterpoint,” we’re turning to Nortel's Tony Rybczynski, director strategic enterprise technologies. He states: “Let’s be clear. The question is really ‘Should you retain or move toward a single vendor Cisco network?’ We, and a growing number of customers, say ‘No’.

“In an article in Network World, Jim Duffy penned the following headline: ‘Beware the single vendor as trusted advisor: Gartner.’ Jim talked about Gartner’s ‘Vendor Influence Curve,’ which plots the advantages to enterprises and to vendors of various types of relationships. The sad fact is that too many enterprises have the ‘My vendor is my only trusted advisor and I never look at other alternatives’ relationship with Cisco, and are paying premium prices for less performance than they can get on the open market. It’s true that the enterprise has ‘one throat to choke’, but is there any doubt that Cisco is the real beneficiary of the generosity of its paying customers?

“Cisco argues minimal complexity and high availability with single vendor, but with hundreds of features that most don’t use and that decrease software reliability and increase configuration errors, this is a hollow claim. They argue minimal MTTR, but since when is a monopoly model the path to responsive service? They claim lower operations costs and then put you on a recurring upgrade cycle! They claim acceleration of innovation, but their network-centric architecture, is just the opposite, as will be demonstrated in the second half of this “counterpoint.”

“We believe that hyperconnectivity, a megatrend whereby everyone and everything that should be connected will be connected, will have profound effects on your network. You will need to support from 10x to 100x the number of devices, deliver consistent quality of experience for unified communications, and provide real-time reliability. Faced with major investment required by hyperconnectivity, you should perform due diligence and assess what is needed, and what is available. This naturally leads to segmenting your network along either geographical or functional lines. Avoid ‘this is what I have always done and what my incumbent vendor wants me to do.’ Go with the vendor that best meets your need, though the number of vendors you deal with needs to be managed.

“This will provide you the flexibility to leverage the most out a competitive environment across the hyperconnected enterprise, both in terms of TCO and technology innovation.”

Many thanks to Rybczynski for sharing these thoughts. We’ll continue with Rybczynski’s thoughts next week. In the meantime, please let us know your thoughts and we’ll compile and share those as well.

Read more about lans & wans in Network World's LANs & WANs section.

Steve Taylor is president of Distributed Networking Associates and publisher/editor-in-chief of Webtorials. Jim Metzler is vice president of Ashton, Metzler & Associates.

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