Want affordable SDN products? Check the secondary market

Software-defined networking is great technology, but the cost of new products is prohibitive for some companies. If yours is one, take a look at the secondary market and pre-owned equipment.

Want affordable SDN products? Check the secondary market
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Frankly (no pun intended), I have to admit that I’m growing increasingly frustrated with certain trends in networking.

For example, it’s not that I don’t like the dream or idea of software-defined networking (SDN) — it’s not that I don’t think it’s superior to the older way of setting up or monitoring a network. It’s just that I’m becoming increasingly concerned that small- to medium-size enterprises (SMEs) won’t be able to keep up. And the media that follows this trend isn’t really brining to light the extreme cost of some of these systems.

Pricewise, many of the product lines are intended for large networks. There's no way that a smaller company could even begin to afford them. For example, one trainer told me that a certain SDN product was scaled to start at 500 site deployments!!

To top it all off, OEMs are encouraging techs and engineers to learn a scripting or programming language such as Python or Ruby. Most of the engineers or techs we talk to are so over-burdened that they have zero time to learn anything like this. And if they do, they will have to implement standard software control procedures. Who has time to do that? Hire more staff, you say? Not the easiest thing for SMEs to do.

My feeling is that for now — or until the extremely high price comes down — SMEs should keep looking at more conventional networking products.

Consider the secondary market

This is where the secondary market and preowned equipment comes in: savings of Capex, immediate availability (same day shipping), and support (providing SMEs options). High price, complexity, and network homogeneity have frequently been a barrier with bleeding-edge technologies.

Everyone knows about the secondary market, but some don’t realize how viable the solutions you receive from it really are. Not only can you service your infrastructure with secondary market hardware, but you can also achieve the same levels of success and reliability you’ve come to expect from new equipment.

Gartner echoed my sentiment in its recent report, "Recent Cisco Networking Price Increases Demand Deeper Discounts," saying, “Gain leverage by seriously evaluating and considering alternate suppliers, including the used and refurbished equipment market.”

If you’ve never worked with a secondary market hardware provider, sometimes all it takes is a leap of faith. Give a reputable, qualified vendor a try, and validate the quality of their offerings.

How to choose a secondary market partner

Once you decide it’s time to give the secondary market a try, the next step is to find a suitable business partner. But how can you tell a reputable, capable secondary market provider from the multitude of small, fly-by-night vendors out there? At a glance, it’s not all that simple.

Anyone can set up a slick-looking website and represent themselves as a major player with all sorts of capabilities. But there are several major characteristics that you should use to thoroughly vet them.

  • Solutions at scale – Can they handle both large and small projects in any location worldwide?
  • Value recovery – Do they have the necessary capabilities, expertise, and distribution channels to maximize the value of the hardware you already have?
  • Comprehensive inventory – How much square footage do they dedicate to maintaining inventory? If they don’t have products on hand, how can you rely on their warranty or their ability to provide support?
  • Product diversity – Do they have a wide variety of options for you to choose from, or are they too narrow to be of any real use?
  • Service delivery – Can they deliver on their promises, and can they provide insights, knowledge, and know-how to help you accomplish goals?
  • Longevity in business – If they haven’t been around a significant time, it’s fair to say you may not be able to count on them to support your investment in the long-term.

As you consider offerings, apart from the OEM, the most important factors to look for in a partner are size, scale, and breadth. These provide some insurance that you’re choosing a reliable vendor to do business with.

In its report "Used-Hardware Resellers Offer Hardware and Support Cost Savings," Gartner also advises visiting the reseller. 

“For prospective customers to better understand the capabilities of the used-hardware resellers, an on-site visit to the provider’s depot is recommended. Such a visit should include a review of the provider’s testing labs to help gauge inventory size and standardized processes for logistics,” it says.

Use due diligence

The most important thing to remember is that you always have options. Don’t allow the OEM to dictate your technology strategy.

Every OEM has an agenda that revolves around encouraging upgrades to their newest offerings. That's fine; we all want to see OEMs driving innovation and moving forward. But you shouldn’t feel obligated to upgrade until your business needs dictate it.

Quality secondary market providers can help you maintain your investment and save budget money in the face of rising OEM prices.

“Despite concerns related to OEMs’ objections to the acquisition of used hardware, the used hardware resale market is an established and growing market,” Gartner says in its report "Used-Hardware Resellers Offer Hardware and Support Cost Savings."

Finding a reputable secondary market provider helps you add a partner who has your agenda, and your unique business needs, in mind. You get alternative solutions and a fresh outlook on how to invest in your technology.

As the need for small- to medium-size enterprises to find affordable SDNs continues, finding a secondary market provider that can offer a cost-effective solution seems to be a logical way to go.

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product, or service depicted in its research publications and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner's research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

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