Modern technology has seen many new developments over the years with concepts like hyperconvergence, virtualisation, the cloud, and disaggregation entering the scene. However, the networks all of these rely on have often struggled to keep up. Traditional closed (vendor-locked) network solutions are smothering innovation in the network sphere and creating unnecessary work for organisations that need their IT staff to focus on more important matters. Here’s how open networking is working to make networks better for everyone.
Networks need to work hard all the time. Businesses demand uncompromising performance from their networks and the IT professionals tasked with managing them. However, even though most IT and network professionals out there are equipped with the skills and experience to manage networks, it’s often the network infrastructure that lets them down.
A 2019 survey by Sirkin Research of IT and network professionals showed that:
43% of IT and network professionals are challenged to find the time to work on strategic business initiatives.
42% spend too much time troubleshooting across the entire network.
35% have poor visibility into performance across all fabrics of the network.
35% have poor end-to-end performance monitoring across network devices.
31% are spending too much time managing cumbersome workflows between critical systems.
Most of these issues can be traced to closed network ecosystems, where the vendors supplying equipment only offer easy integration with their proprietary hardware and software. Rarely can businesses create a network catered exactly to their needs using only a single vendor’s products. Integrating hardware and software from different vendors in a closed ecosystem is time-consuming and often ridden with issues that require tedious workarounds.
Closed vs. open: why it matters
The first and most important decision a business must make when looking at building a network is which vendor to partner with. This decision is vital since much of a modern organisation’s functions will be crippled without a network as the backbone of digital communication. Here are the pros and cons of the two types of ecosystems:
Closed network ecosystems:
Only one vendor supplies all equipment, which simplifies contracts and provisioning.
Equipment from a single vendor is optimised to work with that specific vendor’s products out of the box with consistent user interfaces and software.
A single vendor is available to support the entire network.
Vendor lock-in makes it difficult and expensive to switch to alternative vendors when changing or expanding the network.
Limited options are available when selecting equipment and features, often resulting in unnecessary costs and unwanted additions.
Businesses are vulnerable to a vendor ending production of essential equipment and forcing expensive network upgrades.
Vendor lock-in results in tedious integration between equipment from different vendors, which increases network complexity and IT workload.
Open network ecosystems:
Vendor choice gives businesses the freedom to choose equipment and components, tailoring the best solution for their specific needs.
Excellent interoperability is achieved since equipment is made to work with any other equipment, including those from other vendors.
Open-source software allows the business to audit code to ensure security and easily make changes as needed.
Cost savings are achieved since businesses aren’t locked into any restrictive contracts and can opt for the most affordable solutions for each area of the network.
The network is easily scalable and flexible since it isn’t restricted to specific equipment. It can incorporate new types of equipment from any vendor or easily be added on to existing networks.
Integration between different vendors’ equipment may be a challenge, especially if one of them follows a closed network ecosystem policy.
Compatibility issues may sometimes arise since equipment from different vendors isn’t tailor-made for each other. Finding where the issue lies can be tedious.
It may be difficult to find support for the entire network from a single vendor.
Looking at these pros and cons, we can see that open network ecosystems offer more benefits and fewer drawbacks while its cons can easily be addressed by competent network professionals.
Connecting the edge to the core to the cloud
Every area of a network should adhere to the open networking ethos in order for it to be ready for both today and tomorrow’s workloads, technologies, and applications.
Tarsus Distribution has partnered with the best networking brands that share the vision of offering truly open network ecosystems to their customers. Specifically, Dell and HPE Aruba are our enterprise network partners who are ready to provide businesses with only the best open networking services and equipment.
Both vendors offer solutions for the edge, core, and cloud that are built on open standards, open APIs, open-source software, and open ecosystems. For example, OpenSwitch is an open network operating system used by these vendors to allow interoperability and compatibility between different network equipment while still promoting excellent security and easy management.