|The only publication dedicated to OSS Volume 1, Issue 1 - May 2004|
The Dangers of a Disorderly Market (cont'd)
This segment has grown as vendors in surrounding functional areas - like activation, inventory and network management - have jumped into the fray. Some vendors offer products that are meant to discover network devices and paths and report this data to other applications. Most of the inventory vendors have some kind of reconciliation offering that is meant to report discrepancies between the inventory database and discovery information coming from some other system. The combination of these two capabilities in theory helps to enforce data integrity in service fulfillment and cuts down significantly on exceptions and fall out, for example. Unfortunately, there is a long swath of scorched earth from one service provider IT shop to the next that connects the smoking remains of the bridges one or two discovery vendors have razed.
In this case, the problem - according to numerous purchasing decision makers who will remain nameless - is that many of the discovery solutions they have seen are slow to assimilate new technologies, poorly architected, and expensive. Worst of all, they fail to do the job for which they are designed. For example, one product has been known to take so long to discover devices, that by the time it finishes processing, its newly discovered data is out of sync with the network. Several providers learned this the hard way, and have become convinced that either no one can deliver discovery, or it's not worth the risk to pursue. The problem with this is two fold: first, it retards a potential growth area for OSS vendors; and second, if OSSs hold bad data, and no one believes it can be cleaned up, the perceived value of many solutions - like inventory and service impact analysis - is greatly diminished.
Another result of this is that other vendors that follow these gross failures have zero credibility. IT professionals on the service provider side have been burned so many times that they are unwilling to take a chance on new technology, or on OSS vendors at all in some cases. This creates several major problems for the OSS market. First, it stifles innovation by making any new product or architecture introduction extremely difficult. This holds true for new vendors, and established vendors trying to migrate customers to a new product. Second, it only gives service providers' reasons to make the sales cycle more costly and lengthy for every vendor in the process. Third, it creates an extremely disorderly market for pricing, and this is particularly troublesome.
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