Does Cisco Think Virtualizing Your Network is a Good Idea? The Answer May Surprise You.

By Kevin Davis

Director, IT Delivery, NPI

August 14, 2014

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It’s not often that an IT vendor pulls back on claims of lower total cost of ownership (TCO), but in a recent white paper from Cisco the company recommends that customers take a conservative and considered approach to network virtualization in order to avoid operational costs cancelling out other cost benefits.

Our response? Kudos to Cisco for advising customers to be cautious and selective as they consider virtualizing the routers, switches and other infrastructure that powers their networks. Only recently have companies started to jump on this trend, and like the early days of server virtualization, there are risks and pitfalls.

Over the last decade, the team at NPI has watched the “benefits” of many computing trends evolve. Server virtualization initially promised lower capital expenditures and TCO. What many didn’t factor in were the resources and talent required to manage, integrate and secure this new environment. All of a sudden, TCO looked different. At the end of the day, if you ask IT professionals the greatest value of virtualization, many will say agility and capacity optimization – not necessarily cost.

Echoing some of the points in Cisco’s paper, NPI advises companies to ask the following questions as they consider virtualizing network infrastructure:

  • What is your objective? If it’s lowering TCO, have you conducted a thorough cost comparison analysis? What does the short-term and long-term investment (and savings) look like? Have you factored in migration costs?
  • How can you lower your risk? What facets of your network are more performance tolerant and offer a suitable place for testing the waters of network virtualization? Which areas are too risky to disrupt?
  • Is your IT infrastructure currently optimized for network virtualization? Are there any integration roadblocks? Will you need to invest in additional management interfaces/solutions to manage capacity planning and troubleshoot?
  • It’s interesting to see Cisco take this cautious stance in their promotion of network virtualization. We’re used to seeing more aggressive promotion from Cisco and other market leaders such as VMware, especially around growing interest in the software-defined data center. Regardless, nice job, Cisco. Smarter purchases start with smarter analysis of the total cost impact!

    (Of course, that being said, please keep in mind that we’re seeing regular and significant overspending on Cisco equipment and services as of late. NPI is delivering savings in the range of 14 to 29 percent for many purchases.)