North American Network Operators Group

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RE: Single-vendor vs. best-of-breed network

  • From: Irwin Lazar
  • Date: Fri Dec 21 13:30:32 2001

-----Original Message-----
From: Pete Kruckenberg [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Friday, December 21, 2001 1:12 PM
To: [email protected]
Subject: Single-vendor vs. best-of-breed network

I'm trying to make an informed decision whether moving to a
multi-vendor best-of-breed makes sense for my organization.
This is obviously a complex question, so I am hoping to tap
some (figurative) "grey hair" advise from real-world
experiences for the general areas I should focus on in
making/justifying a decision.

We find the general trend is to go single-vendor whenever possible,
primarily to reduce support and management costs.  Engineers/Operators
generally want single vendor, management generally wants best of breed (to
put pressure on suppliers).

Here are the guidelines we use when helping companies develop network
architecture principles (including a position statement on this very topic):

Single Vendor:
Implications: With this principle, the enterprise puts its faith in the
abilities and product direction of a single product or services vendor (per
technology area such as switching/routing, or web hosting). When the product
line fits the business aims of the enterprise, this is often a very
efficient method of doing business.

- Interoperability is eased at least for the products from same vendor. 
- System integration help is usually available at no cost or as a part of
the purchase price of the hardware or software. 
- Total costs may be lower because of the lack of integration costs. 
- When network downtime or performance problems are encountered, "finger
pointing" can be reduced with fewer vendors. 

- If vendor is not tracking mainstream or current technologies, the
enterprise may find itself in a technological "dead end." 
- Due to lack of competition, prices may go up once the enterprise is locked
into a particular vendor. 
- Exploiting new technologies that may be a high leverage technology for the
enterprise may be very expensive to integrate from a vendor outside the
strategic one. 

Best of Breed:
Implications: This principle makes the enterprise the system integrator and
places a premium on in-house talent; some of the "best-of-breed" hardware
and software may never have been integrated in the past. Furthermore, after
the physical integration is complete, it may be difficult to fully monitor
or control the network.

- Permits the enterprise to have the best possible type of product or
service in each category. 
- Keeps the enterprise on the leading edge of networking technology. 
- Prevents being locked into one provider who may fail or who may not have
the needed capabilities. 

- Can make network management and staff training more difficult due to
multivendor environment. 
- Network complexity may be higher because of gateways and/or conversion
- Difficult to fix blame when problems arise, due to "finger pointing" by
the various network participants. 


Irwin Lazar
Senior Consultant, Burton Group <>  
[email protected] <mailto:[email protected]> 
Office: 703-742-9659  
Cell: 703-402-4119