Single-vendor integrated network vs. best of breed: Why single vendor is best

* Cisco's arguments for a single-vendor integrated network

If the reaction to the discussion back in October on whether application optimization should be integrated into the router is any indication, our point-counterpoint discussions can generate some heated debate. While there were no comments that reached SNL's "Jane, you ignorant slut," countered with "Dan, you pompous ass," we did get some comments that got both technical and passionate. Today, we're raising yet another perennial question: Is it better to have a homogeneous network for consistency, or does a heterogeneous network where the customer chooses what they believe to be "best of breed" in each respect provide the best overall reliability?

In a recent paper posted at Webtorials, Cisco advocated the use of a single network vendor to provide high reliability for the entire network. Cisco has especially focused on increasing reliability and thereby reducing risk by using a single network vendor.We’re starting the point-counterpoint discussion this week with comments from Ben Goldman, Cisco director of marketing, network systems, who addresses the positive side of making this move.

He writes: “With the emergence of Web 2.0 applications, enterprise accounts are looking more and more toward ways that they can optimize their networks to deliver business-critical functions their users and customers require. Simultaneously, as the network becomes the platform for service delivery, these same enterprises are recognizing the business imperative of maximizing network availability. With the onslaught of worms, viruses, spyware, and other malware attacks on the network and its resources – not to mention buggy software and all too frequent security alerts – CIOs are starting to link up with the risk management office to employ risk mitigation techniques into their network designs.

“In this environment, a single vendor network design not only allows for the enterprise to leverage the network more effectively by maximizing availability and reduce operational expenses, but also provides the foundation for innovation adoption that is critical for addressing the Web 2.0 challenges. We will examine the four major reasons why a single vendor integrated network is the optimal approach to minimizing risk while maximizing network availability and service delivery.

“1. Reduced Complexity/Faster Failure Recovery: By adopting a single vendor architecture, the customer needs only to track a single implementation of services within the network. Contrast this to the complexity of varied implementations of protocols and features with their own dependencies, across multiple vendors. This results not only in reduced complexity of the network but also in the simplification of tools for provisioning, management and troubleshooting. Subsequently, without cross-vendor implementation inconsistencies, when errors do occur, the benefit of engaging only a single technical support center will also limit the coordination effort required to find a resolution, reducing recovery time.

“2. Lower Operational Cost: The cost of implementing and operating a single vendor network avoids the requirement to train the engineering and operations staff on multiple diverse architectures, as well as installing and operating disparate management systems. Additionally, a dual vendor approach will require the need to spend more in the network design, testing, and certification process to ensure that interoperability between the vendors.”

In the next newsletter, we will continue with Goldman’s third and fourth reasons that a single-vendor network is optimal. In the meantime, let us hear from you, and we will share your feedback as well.

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