White Paper: Software First Infrastructure Strategy

The Status Quo: Hardware First

Typically, and since the dawn of time, network infrastructure teams chose the hardware and switch Operating System (OS) first, then designed their infrastructure, including how their infrastructure was built around this choice.

Hardware/Operating System Qualification Costs

On their own customers have had to qualify various switch hardware and operating systems, which takes months, thousands of man hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars per switch hardware and switch operating system! It is common that a switch OS version takes six months and five engineers to qualify, costing roughly $750,000 per switch OS version qualification. Assuming that an organization qualifies two versions across two vendors over the course of a year, the price tag for this qualification effort is $3 Million. This is a prime example of a suboptimal manual operational process that’s induced because of hardware vendor lock-in.

Hardware Vendor Lock-in

Furthermore, the process of qualifying hardware and switch operating systems is designed to, and perpetuates hardware vendor lock-in. Think about this process – requiring many of your engineers to spend most of their time qualifying switch operating systems and switch hardware, you’re compelling them to spend their time becoming experts at those devices. Your message to them is that their priority is to learn the arcane command line interfaces for these various switch OS versions; and that they need to become experts at the inner workings of these devices. That’s monumental work each and every organization is doing - and, it consumes a big portion of your team’s intellect, energy, focus and time.

Because of this process, organizations are compelled to simplify and lock themselves into one hardware vendor - with this model, onboarding new vendors tremendously increases the amount of work, which can become untenable.

Therefore, we have many enterprise infrastructure teams stuck in this vicious, self-perpetuating cycle of vendor lock-in, manual operations, constant qualification and device-focused minutia. A hardware first approach has other substantial cost implications and disadvantages.