As the enterprises spread their businesses beyond geographical boundaries,
pressure to maximize resources gets higher. They look at every opportunity to
cut cost and plan for a robust, reliable, and scalable network infrastructure
that can support various business applications and processes.
As technologies advance and convergence of voice and data makes their way to
the network, integrating, managing, and maintaining the network becomes
complicated, expensive, and difficult. Further, in most cases the core
competency of a company is not network related and, hence, they look out for
third party to do the job for them.
Selecting the right partner who can meet the enterprise's critical needs
with comprehensive network integration and management capabilities in a timely
and economical manner is essential.
Network integration has moved beyond the scheme of assembling boxes and
putting together tools. It requires proper evaluation of the requirements,
assessment of the best in breed technology to full the needs, good support
system, and scalability issues keeping in mind the future expansion plans of the
organization. And, all this makes the work of a CIO tough. He has to look for a
technology partner and total business advisor rather than mere integrators.
Challenges before a CIO
The first challenge a CIO faces while choosing an integrator is the dilemma
of whether to go in for in-house or look outside. The answer is simple: The
outsider has the expertise and coordinates with the best technology vendors,
which is not the core competency of any internal team of enterprise.
Evaluating the organization's requirements and the possible solutions to
suit them is another challenge that the CIO faces while integrating his network.
He should look out for NIs who has the capability, expertise and team of experts
to accurately do the assessment.
The assessment has to be done for not only the present requirements but also
the future plans of the company and how the technology would shape up in the
A good integrator can help organizations to make improvements in the existing
technology infrastructure that they have.
Organizations might also need to rework the design of the network through a
due diligence by inspecting the current logical and physical configurations.
Organizations are becoming conscious of the total cost of ownership and
return on the investment. A lot of attention is being given on reducing the TCO
Often, the networks are designed to handle growth in demand but the
applications are not used optimally. There needs to be a balance between the
investments being made on the networks and capacity utilization.
The integrator designs the network within the given budget and makes it
scalable when required.
To get the correct picture on the returns on investment, the customer should
clearly spell out his business needs. This helps to forecast the cost and
returns from a technology before the project takes off.
Security is another area of concern for the any organization. With
enterprises putting mission critical applications, data, and productivity tools
onto the network to be conveniently accessed from any location, it is becomes
critical to assess security preparedness of the integrators too.
Does the NI answer these?
Does the integrator understand and align the technology solutions to meet
the business needs?
The vendor should be able to design the most suitable network infrastructure
and integrate it with the business with minimal disruptions of operations.
Installing, configuring, and integrating technology and solutions is taken
for granted. Customer references are an important tool in measuring the
integrator's viability, experience, and capabilities.
Is the vendor an integrator or a contractor?
Many network integrators have a middleman approach and introduce many
complications in between. They are more of contractors.
A CIO must avoid a company which subcontracts jobs a lot and often escalates
the overall cost.
Does the vendor have the skills and expertise to carry out effective
deployment of technology?
The rapid advancement in technology and the ever-increasing demand for a
robust, secure, always-available network with the 24X7 support system requires a
high level of expertise. A certified and well-qualified team of experts from the
NI would ensure good returns on investment made in technology.
Does he deliver best-in-class customer service?
Settle nothing for less than best-in-class customer service and insist for an
established measurement and evaluation systems to ensure the service class.
Does he have access to new technologies solutions?
Integrators partnership with right technology vendors ensures access to the
He should be able to understand the technology and customize it for his
This enables him to keep the customers ahead in technology and assists them
in making right decisions.
What is the area of presence of the Network Integrator?
If your company has a pan India presence, it is not advisable to have
different integration partners. For ease of operation, uniformity, and low cost
of ownership, the integrator should have single point of contact across all
phases of the networking life cycle.
In case you are not able to find a suitable NI in your area of operation, try
other integrators in that area who have similar experience and technology
Is the integrator ready to be a long term trusted business ally and advisor?
If the network goes down, your business takes the hit. An integrator should
understand company's long-term goals and his role should go beyond merely
incorporating latest technology to your network. He should be partner in your
business and should align himself to grow with the enterprise. Choose an
integrator with a good financial backing.
What are the timeline for the infrastructure to be up and running?
The projects are often delayed and add to the overall cost. So terms should
be clearly laid down and deadlines should be drawn. And in case of a delay, a
backup plan should also be in place. Proper delay notification procedures should
be in place.
Where market has moved
Increasingly, the concept of end-to-end or one-stop solution providers is
gaining momentum. It saves the frustration of working with multiple partners and
the NI is able to offer a total suite of related solutions.
The NI then becomes the single point of contact and customizes the right and
related technologies to offer an entire solution kit that addresses the business
requirement and the full networking life-cycle.
The demand has been for vendors who can provide equipment as well as the
applications to run on them.
Today, most of the network integrators have been offering managed services as
fact remains that the NI understands his design better and can offer better
post-deployment services. The market has also moved towards remote management
services and outsourcing companies have been a major attraction for most
Manufacturing followed by the financial sector has been driving complete
outsourcing of infrastructure integration and management market. But government
buying, telecom service providers and the IT companies have also been pitching
in with their contributions.
Equipment vendor as Network Integrator?
Though the Indian market has witnessed steady growth, there are many
irritants that need to be removed. In the current scenario, equipment vendors
and connectivity service providers have greater clout in the market than the
Often the stringent SLA clauses become difficult to be followed, as it is
dependent on the third party rather than the NI.
Also, dependency on the third party, particularly in the connectivity side
acts as a deterrent to end-to-end solution offerings.
So why cannot an equipment vendor or an operator become a network integrator?
The core business of these companies is not designing network or managing them.
Though vendors like Ericsson and Nokia have ventured into this segment, they
would like to focus in supplying the equipment rather than putting up the
The customer wants the best available technology or equipment for himself.
The involvement of an equipment vendor tilts the contract in his favor and
the customer is forced to buy even if that vendor does not have best equipment
in every category.
Further, a vendor would not like to get involved in local area networking
(LANs), he is likely to find good business in doing wide area networking.
Does your integrator understand your business, the
pressure, requirements, and challenges?
What is the cost of ownership and does your NI help in
evaluating the TCO?
Are the solutions protecting your existing investments?
Insist on face-to-face interaction with NI get the true
picture of his capabilities?
Can he deliver end-to-end solution from design,
implementation, to management?
Does he have success stories to make a strong business
Would the solutions make business critical applications
What is the level of expertise, skill set, and
certifications of the integrators team?
What is their level of training and know-how of latest
What kind of relationship the NI has with the technology
Can his partnerships deliver best-of breed solutions?
Does he have the capability to provide advanced
consulting, complex designs, installation and configuration of the network?
What is the level of SLA compliance? Watch out for 99.9
reliability, delivery of advanced services, case tracking capabilities and
What has been his mean time to restore and not the mean
time to respond in case of fault?
Does your SI/NI understand your internal pressures and
needs and work for a win-win result?
How many repeat orders does your SI/NI enjoy?
Does the integrator has an all-India presence and
exhibits a global perspective?
Can you depend on the NIs caliber for the network side
and leave you free to focus on core business?
Are the solutions being offered aligned to meet
organization's long-term business goals?