The Equipment Vendor

Equipment vendors are primarily in the business of selling networking equipment, not network management applications. Hence, traditionally equipment vendors have shown a tendency to limit investment in management application development. In general, they have been willing to settle for the minimum management capabilities that customers would allow them to get away with. That means that generally they would provide just the level of management capabilities needed to not inhibit equipment sales. Of course, they might have heard an occasional complaint as a result. However, if at the end of the day the vast majority of their customers made their purchasing decisions based on the capabilities of the equipment, not the management that comes with it, and if on top of that many customers expected any management capabilities to be thrown in essentially as a freebie without being charged extra, who could blame them?

In recent years, however, a subtle shift has started to occur in which people think of networking equipment less in terms of "boxes," but more in terms of end-to-end systems. Management, while not a part of the box, is certainly a part of that system. At the same time, there is an increasing awareness that TCO of a network includes not only the cost of buying or leasing the equipment, but the cost of managing it as well. Increasingly, that total cost is being factored into purchasing decisions. In addition, equipment vendors face constant pressure to avoid commoditization of their equipment. If everyone offers the same basic set of features, it becomes hard for vendors to charge a premium for their equipment, and margins suffer. On the other hand, when a particular vendor's equipment offers additional features and functions that are useful to end customers and that the competition doesn't have, this constitutes a positive competitive differentiator that the vendor might even be able to charge a premium for.

The capability to manage networking equipment is therefore increasingly being recognized as one such competitive differentiator. Hence, equipment vendors are paying increasing attention to network management. This includes management applications that equipment vendors make available for the equipment. In some cases, basic management software might come bundled with the equipment, not unlike a vendor of digital cameras that throws in additional photo-editing software. But at least as important, this also includes the management interfaces of the equipment that allow the equipment to be easily supported by management applications and to be easily integrated into operations support environments.

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