IT departments are constantly challenged with finding ways to reduce infrastructure and operational costs while providing and maintaining uninterrupted services to the business. All this often needs to be achieved with limited resources and budget.
Streamlining systems management can yield significant infrastructure and operational savings specifically in the spaces of Wide Area Network (WAN) optimization and remote branch management. Surprisingly there are very few solutions which play in this space and are able to truly provide the value-add and savings being sought. It is thus very important to perform an evaluation which considers ALL criteria including less obvious items to determine which products best fit your organization’s needs.
As part of the evaluation process you might make use of external sources such as articles, blogs etc. to try and determine how a product is viewed and used by others. Always make sure the source is reliable and trusted – often good sources take the form of customers who have had the solution in place for a few years. Beware of independent reviews which have not been conducted in a professional manner and thus don’t inform you of how exactly findings were determined – these sort of reviews/opinions can be misleading and damaging and can often be influenced by those with something to gain.
A thorough technical/functional evaluation is always a good idea too, any worthy product should pass this with relative ease. But, as many know this can consume valuable time and resources so by evaluating some of the criteria below one may well remove unfit contenders allowing more time to technically review and focus on the best solutions.
1. Maturity: ensure products are “tried and tested”
Products can often appear mature and stable through company marketing and messaging but beware because much of this can be disguising the truth of an immature “untried and untested” solution. A solution that has a track record of being used by many organizations of varying sizes over many years is very important because the feedback received from them gets built into the system resulting in a more mature and hardened solution. It is almost impossible to build a piece of software which will cater for all scenarios and exceptions encountered in this area without being provided real world customer feedback. Customer advocacy is the ONLY true way to determine a product’s maturity – reviewing case studies and speaking directly with notable reference customers – ensure organizations providing you with feedback have been successfully running the solution for at least one to two years. Do not be fooled by false hopes and promises of something which is still undergoing an implementation. Additionally beware of massaged figures when it comes to the size of an implementation – sometimes vendors may mention that they have their solution implemented at a sizeable organization but in reality their solution may have only been rolled out over a small fraction of the estate.
Nomad Enterprise ™ has been in existence since 2004 and is successfully implemented and running at hundreds of organizations (millions of machines under management) some of which represent the top of each vertical e.g. Verizon Wireless, Wells Fargo, HSBC, AT&T …. The collaboration with these customers over many years has enabled Nomad to mature into a solution which has encapsulated many different environment scenarios.
2. Scalability: thoroughly investigate and test
Products on the market today operate well in deployments of a few hundred machines but often the solution being sought would need to manage and operate over thousands if not hundreds-of- thousands of machines. Organizations may only uncover scalability issues after the fact.
Nomad Enterprise™ is tightly integrated with Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager Platform (SCCM) and leverages its scalability, reliability and failover capabilities while introducing even more worth in each of these areas. Nomad is a serverless solution and thus does not require any additional infrastructure to operate. Nomad is successfully implemented and running at hundreds of organizations globally some of which have estates in excess of 350,000 machines.
3. Integration: ensure product fits with your overall enterprise systems strategy
Some products may provide a separate proprietary system/console with links into ConfigMgr. Ensure that this approach aligns with your overall resource management strategy because it could incur additional deployment, maintenance and training costs not to mention the links which could well be considered moving parts and are susceptible to breaking. These costs and concerns can be eliminated by leveraging industry-standard platforms that are already deployed within a company.
Nomad Enterprise™ utilizes the ConfigMgr platform avoiding unnecessary costs and complexities. Nomad does not have a separate console but instead is represented within the ConfigMgr console as a Property Tab – simply enable Nomad by ticking a check box.
4. Vendor Product Checks: stability, coverage, pedigree …
This is an obvious area which should always be checked during any vendor evaluation. To simplify this you could ask some very straight forward questions namely: How many successful implementations have you completed? What is your largest deployment? Name your top five customers? How many devices are under management?
See blog Nomad Enterprise – Tried and Tested.
5. Pricing: ensure you are comparing apples with apples
It goes without saying that pricing is often a major deciding factor in any deal. If there is a significant price difference between products be sure to ask yourself WHY? New “untried and untested” V1 software is often a prime candidate for offering handsome discounts. The thinking behind this may be obvious in that vendors need to gain customers and ultimately market share, but as a buyer you need to tread cautiously because this discount comes at a price. New software WILL encounter significant teething problems and this will consume your time, effort, resources and patience not to mention inevitable downtime – this all COSTS you one way or another. In the end you may well find that the discount has been nullified and that you have in fact paid more. For many organizations the RISK of implementing significantly discounted V1 software is simply too HIGH.
6. Production Deployment: verify process, timelines and resources
Once a product has been purchased you would expect to simply roll it out and begin taking advantage of its promised benefits. In many situations this is simply not the case. Implementation projects can consume valuable resources for extended periods of time and impact normal daily operational activities. The rollout can cause a lot of disruption to an organization and the benefits it was meant to introduce remain a distant aspiration. Your existing pains are compounded with a long and drawn-out implementation which incorporates many tweaks and enhancements that still need to be made, but which you thought had already been catered for in the product.
You need to verify a vendor’s ability to implement their own solution. Often vendors do not have the resources required or are thinly spread and unable to adequately support a rollout. The easiest way to avoid this situation is to check how many previous deployments of a similar size and nature have been completed. Make sure these checks have been carried out with reference customers who have had the solution bedded in for at least one to two years (this should be an adequate time to determine a successful implementation). Also it’s worth verifying the vendor’s consulting headcount as you will soon realize whether they have the resource available to meet their commitments.