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Single, dual or multivendor sourcing - which works better?

Juniper argues for a dual vendor strategy

Wide Area Networking Alert By Steve Taylor and , Network World
January 08, 2008 12:00 AM ET
Jim Metzler
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Network World - In recent newsletters (see here, here, here and here) we invited different vendors to help weigh up the pros and cons of single-vendor integrated networks vs. best of breed. Klaus Hofmann, Senior Director Enterprise Solutions Marketing at Juniper wrote to us and outlined a somewhat different viewpoint to those of Cisco and Nortel. According to Klaus: "The truth is there's a better approach: a dual vendor strategy."

He adds: “While the illusion of a single vendor that can address end-to-end networking requirements seems appealing on the premise of reduced complexity, lower operational costs, high availability, etc., the stark reality is that it’s a flawed premise. Cisco’s growth strategy has been largely based on a myriad of acquisitions that have left network administrators to navigate a catalog of compromises and dozens of disparate operating systems and management tools. You won’t have to go far to validate the nightmarish task of managing an end-to-end Cisco network environment; simply ask any network administrator how many versions of IOS he’s currently managing.

“In today’s high-performance business landscape, technology decisions must be tightly coupled to business requirements. Having a single-source vendor presents the illusion of also having a single trusted advisor. This ‘trusted advisor’ will entice businesses with marketing hyperbole such as automating a manageable and self-defending network. In reality, a single-vendor trusted advisor isolates businesses from competitive bidding and achieving optimized cost structures. Innovation happens at the vendor’s pace and comes at the expense of the business.

“High-performance businesses have an innovation imperative and are under continuous pressure to build differentiation and sustainable growth. Legacy and proprietary network infrastructures that are limited in performance, slow to adapt and costly and complex to manage ultimately diminish choice and control in quickly meeting business requirements. By building a high-performance network infrastructure, innovative businesses create trusted and responsive environments that accelerate the deployment of applications and services over a single network, while reducing costs. To simultaneously expedite workforce productivity and customer loyalty, support revenue growth and profitability goals, ensure risk management and achieve operational excellence, businesses must not be snared by the trap and promises of any single IT vendor. Ultimately businesses must also rely on a strategic vendor that offers integrated networking solutions built on open standards. With a dual-vendor approach, they will be best positioned to capitalize on their IT investments and fuel sustained success.”

We take a somewhat different view than Cisco, Nortel or Juniper relative to sourcing. We have seen instances in which a single vendor strategy has worked well and instances in which it did not. The same is true for dual-vendor and multi-vendor strategies. We believe that success relative to sourcing strategies often comes down to factors such as the dynamic that exists between the IT organization and the vendor(s) as well as how good of a job the IT organization does relative to vendor management.

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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