Webinar to explore multi-vendor pros, cons
Tomorrow, we will be hosting a free webinar — sponsored by Avtec — that will explore the advantages of multi-vendor networks. We'll also be discussing the myriad challenges to pulling off such initiatives in this session, which will be moderated by Urgent Communications Editor Donny Jackson. The focus will be on two deployments, one in the city of Richardson, Texas, and one in the Boston area, the latter of which Jackson will examine in our August cover story.
Last week, we held a rehearsal call during which the panelists, Steve Graves, Richardson's CIO, and Don Denning, Boston's public safety CIO, shared some initial insights. According to Graves, the cost advantages of multi-vendor networks are at the very top of the justification list.
"We have an LMR system that is one of the first of its kind — an open system that has infrastructure supported by Cassidian, consoles that are supported by Avtec, and portable and mobile radios supported by Motorola, all working together," Graves said. "That allows you to save anywhere from $4 million to $8 million on the purchase of a radio system. We like to refer to that as taxpayer money well spent."
Denning agreed that the cost advantages of true interoperability are considerable.
"An agency always is in a better position if it is not solely reliant on any single vendor for any total system from beginning to end," he said. "You don't want to leverage 10 different vendors against each other, but having two or three gives you leverage to drive prices down and keep the vendors on their toes."
They're also in a better position when they can select best-of-breed components for each aspect of the system, which a multi-vendor environment allows, according to Graves. "That's an advantage that we'd really like to tout," he said.
Living in a multi-vendor environment also gives agencies additional flexibility that is very handy when things go wrong.
"When you have a failure, you don't have to wait for a single piece of equipment that may be out of stock, because your system is designed to handle three different types of network switches or three types of routers," Denning said.
But there also are challenges associated with multi-vendor deployments. Chief among them is that vendors typically don't like to share, and they often don't interact well — a mindset that has to be overcome if such deployments are going to work.
"In a process like this, you have to be able to say that you got all of the vendors to play together in the sand box," Graves said. "When you have one company's system, someone else's consoles, and someone else's radios, how do you make all of that work together and not get finger-pointing?"
Another challenge is that working with one vendor usually is a lot easier than coordinating multiple suppliers and integrating their gear.
"One of the big things I got hit with by my city council is that, with a proprietary system, there's only one group to hold accountable — but you pay for that," Graves said. "And, in this day and age, don't you want to be able to say that you have the best consoles, radio system, and mobiles and portables?"
There's a lot more that we'll be covering tomorrow. I hope you'll tune in. I'm certain it will be time well spent.
What do you think? Tell us in the comment box below.