The Single-Vendor Network Vision is Blurry

Posted by Mark Teter, Chief Technology Officer
February 15, 2011

I’ve read a lot recently about Cisco’s single-vendor network strategy and also the subsequent report issued by Gartner that slams this concept– Gartner Slams Cisco’s Single-Vendor Network Vision.

Here’s an excerpt (emphasis is mine):

One surprising benefit from our investigation was that for most organizations interviewed, the complexity of the network was reduced when they introduced another network vendor. This may seem counterintuitive; one would expect going from one vendor to multiple network infrastructure vendors to increase complexity. However, reference customers were able to take advantage of the transition to introduce more standardization in the network architecture. The network had a more-consistent set of devices and was running fewer OS releases, and configurations were more consistent. This is often a normal outcome of updating the network infrastructure, and would have also been the case with an all-new Cisco (or other vendor) infrastructure.

However, what was different from the vast majority of Cisco installations we encounter was that the effect was longer-lasting. For example, one organization was running one release of Junos across the entire edge routing infrastructure nearly five years after converting from Cisco to Juniper. On the other hand, another organization we interviewed (in the same vertical market with similar requirements) that had remained with Cisco on its WAN (running the similar Integrated Services Router [ISR] in all remote locations) recently completed an extensive consolidation project, but only managed to reduce the number of Internetwork Operating System [IOS] versions to four. This is consistent with the feedback we receive from large Cisco shops where it is not uncommon to hear of enterprises using more than 100 versions of Cisco IOS in their networks.

It seems to me that a single vendor network might appear to offer a simplified architecture, delivering a lower cost of ownership compared to a multi-vendor networking infrastructure. However, customers always benefit from having choices.  For one, competition means better pricing for everyone. Secondly, more competition can mean better architectural modernization and overall better networking design.

About Mark Teter Before he retired from ASG in 2013, Mark Teter was Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and the author of 'Paradigm Shift: Seven Keys of Highly successful Linux and Open Source Adoptions.' As CTO, Mark regularly advised IT organizations, vendors, and government agencies, and he frequently conducted seminars and training programs.

Filed Under: Networking

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