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Best-of-Breed or Single-Vendor Simplicity?: Page 2 of 2

Cisco appears to be conceding this battle, to a point, by announcing a
partnership with AirDefense this week, even though product won't be
available until March 2005. It's somewhat ironic that Cisco would go
with a partner for wireless IDS (intrusion detection services) to sit
alongside a separate product that provides IDS services on the wired
network. After all, Cisco's biggest criticism of the wireless switch
vendors is that an overlay solution does not provide an adequate level
of service integration with the wired infrastructure.

This pitch has been effective with many in the analyst community,
leading some to predict the imminent demise of some of Cisco's most
credible competitors. That's sweet music in the ears of network managers
in many Cisco shops who really don't want to look elsewhere for
wireless. But a significant number are looking at competitors. When I
recently asked a senior executive from Aruba Networks what percentage of
its 500-plus customers have Cisco wired infrastructure, I was a little
surprised with his response: almost all of them.

An objective assessment of today's IT industry makes it clear that
best-of-breed does not always win out over single-vendor solutions.
Sometimes, the decision to go single-vendor is rational. But in many
cases it reflects a reluctance to carefully evaluate the complex range
of technical issues, understandable when people are working 60-hour
weeks already. It's a compromise I've made myself over the years,
especially when objective information is lacking. But if your goal is to
select the wireless solution that best meets the needs of your
organization, you owe it to your employer to carefully consider all
options. That doesn't always lead to a multi-vendor overlay solution,
but when it does, trust reality over hype.

Dave Molta is Network Computing's senior technology editor. Write to him at [email protected]