Domain Controllers: Multivendor This Time?

There are market and technical forces in play that will push the Domain Controller systems to be provided by the network equipment vendors themselves.

Cross-domain orchestration systems are intrinsically vendor-neutral, since they need to control widely varying technologies that usually come from multiple vendors. But DC systems can be either single-vendor or multivendor. Let’s look at which will win in the marketplace.

Why might DC systems
be vendor-specific?

There are market and technical forces in play that will push the DC systems to be provided by the network equipment vendors themselves. This section outlines those forces.

The market dynamics are the same as they were with the EMSs that became vendor-specific. EMSs were originally envisioned in the 1980s to be multivendor, providing a standardized northbound interface to the Operations Support Systems (OSS) so that CSPs would be free to buy multiple vendors’ network elements but enable operation as a single network. They provided both provisioning and performance information in a regularized fashion. 

Although several ISVs attempted to build EMSs and EMS platforms that could be used by CSPs themselves, Systems Integrators (SIs) and the network equipment manufacturers (NEMs) to build the EMSs, these failed in the marketplace. Instead, EMSs became almost exclusively from the NEMs, bundled along with their equipment. This is because they needed a way to use the features of their equipment, including proprietary functionality that gave them a competitive advantage, which CSPs wanted. Plus, the NEMs priced their EMS systems low, in order to advantage their equipment. This left little margin for the multivendor EMS players. 

Many NEMs moved on to build the layer of network management systems (NMSs) above the EMSs, controlling a larger range of systems. This added to their value proposition, using their incumbency in one area to gain advantage in another. These NMSs were marketed as having multivendor capabilities, but they were limited.

Controlling proprietary differentiating features in the equipment is hard in a multivendor environment. Vendors of DC systems must know the details of the equipment they control. For their own equipment, this is not a problem. But other vendors only provide that information under the direct request of their customers. And even then, they may not be fully forthcoming about the details, nor share their roadmap of anticipated changes so that the DC system provider can update their systems in a timely manner.

And there is additional complexity that will make the problem worse. As equipment vendors move to continuous integration-continuous deployment delivery models (providing multiple system updates every month, week, or even day), the problem of keeping the DC systems current with the network elements will increase many times over.


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