Enterprise networking: are your decisions your own?

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Enterprise networking: are your decisions your own?

Enterprise network managers should regain control of their purchasing decisions, analysts say.

According to Gartner Vice President and Analyst Mark Fabbi, enterprises have become increasingly reliant on vendor recommendations when purchasing network equipment.

If vendors exert too strong an influence on enterprise purchasing decisions, organisations could lose sight of business requirements and waste money on unnecessary features, he warns.

“Over the years, we see a number of vendors across different industries increasingly control the decisions of their customers,” he said. “Enterprises really need to take back control of their own decisions.”

Gartner has produced a Vendor Influence Curve to determine how organisations approach technology purchases.

Five different approaches were identified: misers, who are influenced solely by price; tacticians, who consider a number of tactical vendors; leaders, who choose a vendor based on business requirements; optimists, who are influenced by a primary vendor partner; and followers, who treat a vendor as their trusted advisor.

Decisions made by misers were said to be of least benefit to the organisation and vendor. Leaders are expected to be of greatest benefit to the organisation and moderate benefit to the vendor.

Followers are of little benefit to the organisation and great benefit to the vendor, Fabbi said, adding that such organisations “pay dearly for the privilege of not having to make a decision”.

As networking equipment has increased in complexity during the past half-decade, Fabbi speculates that organisations have opted to “fly to safety” and hand over the reins of decision-making to large, influential networking incumbents.

If organisations continue to unconditionally trust their vendor advisors, Fabbi warns that hardware prices will become disproportionately high, and organisations are likely to end up with networking services and features that they don’t need.

“Enterprises will waste $130 billion buying the wrong network technologies and services during the next five years,” he predicts. “Literally, you can’t run your business that way.”

“The problem with enterprise networks is that they see networking equipment as highly complex and customised … the reality of the matter is that equipment is now standardised and we should expect to see vendor margins go down as they try to remain competitive.”

While previous networks have been built on the pillars of making connectivity “bigger” and “faster”, Fabbi said modern networks should be designed around location, users, applications, devices, and activity.

He urges organisations to take purchasing decisions into their own hands by understanding business requirements, reviewing multiple vendors and establishing a vendor bidding process to obtain the most competitive prices.

“The discipline of actually evaluating technology is a lost art,” he said. “We have to re-establish that.”
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