Towards an Open Datacenter with an Interoperable Network Part I – Why Standardize ?
Standards have played a pivotal role throughout history. Just ask my 9th grade daughter. This story is going to sound like a digression, but bear with me…like most stories, there’s an important morale at the end that will save money for your IT organization.
This past week, my daughter learned that the economic unification of China between 247 – 221 BC was due, in part, to the standardization of weights and measures, including the length of ox cart axles (which facilitated transport of goods on the road systems ). The history of technology contains many examples like this one, showing how standards are beneficial. They promote buying confidence by helping to future-proof purchases (no need to worry that your new ox cart won’t fit on the roads). They encourage competition and commoditization, which lowers capital expense (if all the ox carts are the same size, then I can buy the lowest priced cart that fits my needs). And they promote innovation, interoperability and avoid confusion in the marketplace (does it matter if my ox cart is red or blue, as long as it fits on the road? Probably not. But if I can build a cart with the same axel width that can hold twice as much produce, then I’ve created meaningful innovation and differentiated myself from the other ox carts).
In the same way, a standardized approach to more modern commodities, like data center switches, makes sense too. Much has been written about how we can standardize on parts of the solution that have long development times, like silicon ASICs, and differentiate through those aspects which have faster turnaround, like software.
But what about the benefits of buying all your ox carts from the same place? Doesn’t this mean you can get lower prices from buying in bulk and having a good relationship with a single ox cart provider? Won’t you have to train your mechanics to only fix one kind of ox cart, using a common set of tools, and thus save training expenses? Surprisingly, the answer is no to all of these questions, according to a study conducted by Gartner Group for major networking equipment vendors at a large number of customer deployments. For example, this study found that working with a single vendor actually costs a premium of up to 20% over multi-sourced environments, since that vendor isn’t constrained by competitive pricing. Since the tools to fix different types of ox carts (and network switches) are mostly common regardless of brand, there isn’t a need to increase staff or training.
In fact, according to this study, CIOs who don’t re-evaluate their single vendor networking choices aren’t living up to their fiduciary responsibilities. So check out this report for more details, and next time I’ll tell you how to distinguish between true industry standard networking implementations, and those who just want to take you for a ride in their ox cart.
Questions about how networking standards can save you money? Ask me through either my blog or Twitter feed.