Is Good Enough, Good Enough for Networking?

A lot of things in the networking world were originally conceived on a best effort basis. There are also a lot of networks built simply to be ‘good enough’ to meet the current needs of an enterprise.

In a live webcast event this week, networking vendor Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) took aim at the ‘good enough’ mentality when it comes to networking. Executives from Cisco stressed that the modern demands of video and collaboration cannot be effectively met by the ‘good enough’ approach.

There is however a catch. While Cisco is an advocate of standards, the company is also an advocate of its own specific technology platforms. Cisco is facing increasing competition from vendors including HP and Juniper. A key point of differentiation for Cisco, as well as other vendors, comes from innovations that aren’t necessarily standardized.

Mike Rau, vice-president and CTO of Borderless Networks at Cisco explained that standards while important, aren’t enough.

“Standards provide a set of innovations into the marketplace,” Rau said. “But most of those innovations start off with an investment in R&D from a particular company that then gets integrated into a product portfolio to provide customer benefits.”

Rau noted Cisco has been active in many major standards in layer 2 networking, including VLAN
and Power over Ethernet, among others. He added that those standards started out as Cisco innovations to enable customers to build out reliable networks and then moved into the standards world.

“Standards-based plus” networking

Rau’s belief is that when an enterprise managers are looking for a next generation networking vendor, they should look at what the vendor does from a standards basis, as well as what it’s doing to provide innovation on top of those standards

“Standards-based is fine, but standards-based plus is really what you’re looking for with large scale, highly-reliable enterprise network deployments,” Rau said.

Rau also addressed a question during the webcast about whether or not he thought taking a multi-vendor approach was the right path to build a next generation network.

“One of the benefits that an end-to-end Cisco infrastructure delivers is a large amount of test and integration work that we do,” Rau said.

Rau added that an enterprise could do that with multiple vendors, but it would take time to do all the test and integration work. In his view, the benefit of having Cisco end-to-end is a higher level of service.

QoS isn’t enough

Rau also address the myth that having a basic level of Quality of Service (QoS) in a network is good enough. With the rise of video demand on networks, QoS requirements have changed.

“There is one thing that is really true about video, throwing bandwidth at video doesn’t necessarily solve the problem of doing large scale management and control,” Rau said. Part of the challenge with video is how to do you manage it when there is a request for more bandwidth than is available?”

Rau suggested that new QoS services are required to meet next generation video networking needs and good enough isn’t good enough for video.

“In addition to QoS, we also have to bring in capabilities to mange control and troubleshoot video,” Rau said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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