SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Carmen Gonzalez, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Kevin Jackson

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Infrastructure Independence Increases Network Performance, Reduces Operating Expenditures

Federal agencies are under increasing pressure to reduce costs while maintaining services. While there are many ways to cut costs, such as contractor cuts, data center diminution, and even the reduction of key services, many IT departments are overlooking a pivotal savings opportunity – diversity. According to a new MeriTalk study sponsored by Brocade, moving to a multi-vendor environment reduces capital expenditures while only minimally increasing operating expenditures. The new report, “Infrastructure Independence: Set My IT Free” examines the benefits of a multi-vendor environment and what is holding agencies back from realizing infrastructure independence.

Agencies recognize the major cost benefits of infrastructure independence. Ninety-five percent of IT professionals believe there are benefits to using more than one manufacturer in an area of their IT infrastructure and about half (44 percent) believe that adding a manufacturer drives down acquisition costs. IT professionals estimate that they can save 20 percent of their annual budget by adding a manufacturer – that’s $15.8 billion government-wide. In addition, about half (44 percent) of multi-vendor agencies that also use network management tools say that diversification increases network performance.

Despite the clear benefits, many agencies are not considering adding additional manufacturers. Five percent of agencies report that their entire IT infrastructure uses just one manufacturer and another 23 percent use just two or three. Additionally, 41 percent say their agency has not even considered introducing additional manufacturers into their network infrastructure.

A major barrier on the road to infrastructure independence is acquisition. Seventy-six percent report that their agency’s IT infrastructure procurements specify a manufacturer at least some of the time and 77 percent report their agency’s IT infrastructure acquisitions are contracted directly with manufacturers, rather than with a reseller or integrator, at least some of the time. While the majority (65 percent) say their agency specifies a manufacturer to ensure compatibility with existing infrastructure, 17 percent admit it’s what management wants, 11 percent say it saves time, and 7 percent say “it’s just what we always do.”

Network complexity and proprietary technology also hold agencies back from infrastructure independence. Forty-two percent of IT professionals cite concerns that additional manufacturers will negatively impact network performance. IT professionals are also concerned about siloed infrastructures, reporting that 30 to 40 percent of agency infrastructures are locked up by current manufacturers.

Agencies are further restricting new investments by requiring compatibility with their current infrastructure. When evaluating new products for use in their network, 47 percent test the new product within a production environment based upon the current infrastructure, 46 percent test in an independent pilot program, 24 percent connect to the current infrastructure, 22 percent rely on results from other agencies, and 15 percent rely on manufacturer data.

“With Federal budgets challenged or shrinking, agencies are looking for ways to upgrade and modernize their infrastructure while also significantly reducing operating expenditures,” said Anthony Robbins, vice president of Federal sales, Brocade. “Achieving a commercial best practice of network diversity may not always be easy, but it’s easy to see that agencies that have fully embraced a multi-vendor environment are enjoying significant benefits.”

Despite the challenges, greater independence brings many benefits. Ninety-four percent of agencies with diverse infrastructures say they have saved money by using more than one manufacturer. Agencies with 10 or more total manufacturers also report improved processes, increased network performance, improved ability to support agency mission, reduced capital expenditures, and improved functional alignment with requirements.

“Infrastructure Independence: Set My IT Free” is based on an online survey of 202 Federal civilian and DoD or Intel CIOs and IT managers in January 2013. To download the full study, please visit http://www.meritalk.com/infrastructureindependence.

About MeriTalk

The voice of tomorrow’s government today, MeriTalk is an online community and go-to resource for government IT. Focusing on government’s hot-button issues, MeriTalk hosts Big Data Exchange, Data Center Exchange, Cyber Security Exchange, and Cloud Computing Exchange – platforms dedicated to supporting public-private dialogue and collaboration. MeriTalk connects with an audience of 85,000 government community contacts. For more information, visit www.meritalk.com or follow us on Twitter, @meritalk.

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