Vendors who want customers to put all their network eggs in their basket will argue that single-vendor, end-to-end networks yield operational consistency, higher service quality and better reliability. But that's just not true -- enterprises can significantly reduce their costs and simplify their operations by deploying gear from at least two vendors in their networks, according to a November 2010 report from Gartner.
Gartner compiled its data from "hundreds" of client interactions and in-depth interviews with nine public- and private-sector organizations ranging in size from 1,000 users to more than 10,000 employees in 1,000 locations.
DEBATE: Single, dual or multivendor?
In the report, Gartner takes specific aim at Cisco and its proclamations that an "end-to-end" Cisco network is simpler, cheaper and more reliable.
"The idea of a single-vendor network has been promoted by Cisco (just like strong vendors in other market areas) as a way to simplify operations, ensure reliability and lower the TCO [total cost of ownership] for a network infrastructure," state Gartner analysts Mark Fabbi and Debra Curtis in the report. "However, after interviewing various organizations that have introduced a second vendor into their Cisco infrastructures, it is clear that in most cases today there is no financial, operational or functional basis for this argument. The reality is that a single-vendor Cisco network isn't necessarily less complex, easier to manage or more reliable than a network with multiple vendors when implemented with best practices."
Gartner found that introducing a second networking vendor into an enterprise infrastructure will reduce total cost of ownership for most organizations by at least 15% to 25% over five years. And most organizations that introduced a second vendor reported a "lasting decrease" in network complexity "compared to an all-Cisco network," Gartner found.
"We did not encounter one example were [sic] operational cost savings would offset the equipment cost premium that Cisco generally charges," Fabbi and Curtis state in their report.