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Gartner slams Cisco's single-vendor network vision

Jim Duffy | Jan. 21, 2011
Businesses are better off deploying multivendor networks, no matter what Cisco and other large network vendors may tell you, according to a recent report from Gartner.

"Sole-sourcing with any vendor will cost a minimum 20% premium, with potential savings generally reaching 30% to 50% or more of capital budgets when dealing with premium-priced vendors," Fabbi and Curtis state in the report. "Network architects and CIOs who don't re-evaluate long-held incumbent vendor decisions (with any vendor) on a periodic basis are not living up to fiduciary responsibilities to their organization."

In an e-mailed response, a Cisco spokesperson defended the company's single-vendor strategy:

"Cisco believes that an architectural approach provides substantial operational benefits for organizations looking to leverage the network to seize tomorrow's business opportunities. These organizations require an agile, robust, secure, and reliable information infrastructure -- one that can, for instance, ensure the quality of video communications, enforce consistent policies across employees, partners, and customers and enable secure, transparent mobility while reducing energy costs. For these organizations, the benefits of access to highly skilled network engineers (through our CCIEs) are key and an end-to-end architecture is critical."

The Cisco spokesperson also attached a November 2010 document to the e-mail, prepared for the company by Forrester Research, which Cisco claims supports its stance. In the document, entitled "The Total Economic Impact of Cisco's Borderless Networks," Forrester notes that a North American organization employing 5,000 people with 50 global branch offices can achieve $5.4 million in mobility productivity savings; $700,000 in security benefits and cost savings; and $2.4 million in Wide Area Applications Services benefits and costs savings.

Cisco Borderless Networks is an enterprise architecture that includes routing, switching, mobility, security and wide-area network optimization.

That same organization can gain a breakeven payback in 12 months, and a risk-adjusted ROI of 163% over three years, Forrester found.

On the other hand, Gartner says that Cisco, because of its profit margin structure and other circumstances, will be "unable to make sufficient changes" to deliver a lower five-year TCO for network infrastructure and operations than dual-vendor approaches.

"Perceptions concerning adding a vendor to a single-vendor network are unfounded," Fabbi and Curtis state. "We find no need to add staff, retraining is a minor issue, and interoperability and complexity are easily managed ... and will make the network easier to deal with in the long run."


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