Don't Reinvent The Wheel
IT pros voice strong support for standards: Just 1% say they see proprietary features as having better integration and interoperation than standards-based features vs. 45% who say standards are critical and they don't use proprietary features where standards exist. While it's a nice sentiment, the reality likely doesn't match theory. For example, if you're a Cisco shop and you run voice over IP, you're most likely using the proprietary Cisco Discovery Protocol for device discovery. Yes, all vendors dance over the standards line sometimes, but Cisco makes a habit of using proprietary protocols even in the face of available standards. For example, device discovery has been standardized via the IEEE Link Layer Discovery Protocol, but Cisco continues to offer and improve its CDP. Other examples are Cisco's use of its own standard for power over Ethernet instead of the IEEE's PoE+ and its use of proprietary routing protocols such as IGRP/EGRP.
Respondents rank cost per port most important among a list of 15 features, just ahead of a four-way tie among dynamic port configuration, per-port security, management software, and port density. While the latter two speak directly to capital and operational costs, more intriguing is respondents' emphasis on dynamic port configuration and per-port security.
Dynamic port configuration simplifies management because the switch, using a discovery protocol, configures the network port based on a defined profile. For example, a VoIP phone should use power over Ethernet to power the device, get an IP address, register for E911, apply a quality-of-service profile, and be placed on a voice VLAN. A laptop plugging into the same port should have a different configuration. Having someone hard-code configurations for every device is costly, error-prone, and inflexible, so per-port configuration is valuable to IT. Cisco has done quite a bit of work--both standards-based and proprietary--to enable dynamic port configuration. Brocade, HP, and Juniper have similar features, but they either aren't as good or haven't been articulated well, because they're perceived as less innovative than Cisco.
We expect that Juniper's recently announced Simply Connected program is a good starting point for remedying that; the program aims to enable IT to manage and secure wired and wireless devices from a single interface. After all, speeds and feeds are largely the same from vendor to vendor, and they all have increasingly similar feature sets for the campus LAN. Managing wired and wireless devices in a unified manner, extracting data from them, and integrating them with other systems will become more important as an inevitable wave of automation gains speed.