What Matters Most in Networking with Custom or Merchant Silicon

  • Mike Fratto

    Mike Fratto

    The debate over custom and merchant silicon is an old one, but it’s gaining steam driven by developments in software.

  • What matters to IT buyers is that the product provides adequate performance, and vendors using custom silicon need to make their case.

There is something of an intellectual debate occurring in networking over the need of custom versus merchant silicon. It’s not a particularly new debate, but the rise of white box switching, an ever increasing number of switching products coming to market using merchant silicon and the increased focus of software for both advanced features as well as tight integration with the rest of the environment is making the debate far more relevant. Read more of this post

Getting Enterprises to Adopt White Box Switching Will Take a Sea Change

Mike Fratto

Mike Fratto

Summary Bullets:

  • Enterprises have better things to do than do than perform the heavy lifting white box switching requires, even if there is a CapEx savings.
  • A well-heeled VAR or integrator could step out with their own branded white box product line and offer real competition to vendors.

Enterprises are slow to change to new technologies because, without a compelling benefit—and often the comfort of knowing what their peers are doing—they see no need. When companies do make technological changes, they often do so with the help of a VAR, integrator, or consultant to help them along. Even the big multi-nationals will get lots of on-site assistance directly from a vendor during the trial period and when moving to production. Few enterprises are going to go it alone on a project migration that involves new technologies. When the market does move, the technology has often matured and implementers have enough experience that deployments are often manageable. Read more of this post

The Changing Face of Network Management

Mike Fratto

Mike Fratto

Summary Bullets:

  • For vendor management platforms to be effective, they need to replace processes IT developed to get around shortcomings of previous platforms.
  • The management platform must provide all the tools needed for management at a low cost. The management platform isn’t a value add—it’s an integral part of the network buy.

I was talking to a friend who is neck deep in network management in a very large enterprise about some of the new technologies and features network equipment vendors are putting into their network management systems (NMS) with the lofty goal of providing a single pane of glass that has contextual views and workflows built-in. His response, after making a face like he just took a swig of sour milk, was “I’ve heard this all before and each time the platform was expensive and lacked the necessary features we needed. We ended up augmenting with other products. It’s not pretty, but it works.”

One part of the problem my friend faced was that network management products were long on promises and short on delivery. Device discovery was never 100% and network mapping sometimes resulted in impossible, Klein bottle style topologies which had to be corrected by hand. Another part of the problem was self-inflicted. His IT staff would use the CLI or custom built scripts to manage network elements which resulted in the NMS being out of date and constantly needing updating. A whole cottage industry developed to rationalize the NMS view of the network with reality but that’s because the NMS’s weren’t effective tools for IT. I think that’s changing. Read more of this post