Multivendor Muddle

Multivendor networks exist everywhere. Servers, backup systems and a seemingly endless list of elements all have their role in, and view of, the network. More than ever, prudent network designers should care about the extent of multivendor and that it actually exists in solutions they are considering.

Experience shows there is much more to heterogeneous support than can be indicated by a vendor’s check box indicating “yes” in a product profile. The absence of an industry definition of multivendor support lets vendors stake claim to the multivendor checkbox even when that support is trifling.

Thus the burden falls on users to define and validate heterogeneous support to the level they require.

In the past, network managers were often most concerned about heterogeneous support when it came to deploying a switched infrastructure with, say, one vendor’s switches at the core and another’s at the edge. It was important that QoS bits were recognized consistently and that performance enhancers such as link aggregation could work between the switches.

A Darwinian marketplace saw to it that functions were up to required levels. Switch vendors that couldn’t work as required were out of the picture.

Today, though, we are seeing a lot more subtle and complex aspects of heterogeneous networks.

I’m referring to solutions such as Cisco’s Security Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting system that ingest log and event data and, applying advanced analysis techniques, inform network managers of problems or weaknesses that might otherwise go undetected.

Such systems have to read and understand the arcane event descriptions that are generated in the logs of firewalls, intrusion-prevention systems, servers and so forth.

This is a nontrivial task because there are so many devices to deal with, and they are always evolving and adding new events.

Be sure to get vendors to commit in writing their policy for staying current with the event information of all the heterogeneous devices they claim to support.

If you don’t or they won’t, you might find out that your self-defending network cannot protect itself very well.

QuickLink: 068828

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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