What did I do today? I put them on notice -- in plain but diplomatic English -- that I am considering pulling roughly $2,250,000 in business away from them over the next three years. That's the value of our project to replace all of our nearly 1,400 aging Nortel edge switches with new switches.
The rub? Nortel does not have (or at least, has not yet shown me) a security control system that the users would accept. They have a product -- Nortel Secure Network Architecture (NSNA) -- but the demo I've seen only demonstrated that it's not an environment that our users would tolerate. We need to be able to regulate where people go on the network based on their login ID, but using the system needs to be as uncomplicated as, well, logging in.
The present front-runner to replace Nortel as our edge switch vendor is HP. They have good switches, with good warranties, that cost a bit less, and they have a security product that integrates with MS's Active Directory and is agnostic in terms of your core network routers. Cisco is also on the table, but that would be a hugely expensive option, as it would require replacing the $2M in Nortel core switches we put in last year with Cisco switches (probably $3-$4M, and plainly wasteful, IMO), in addition to replacing the edge switches (with the most expensive, per-port switches out there -- another waste).
I'm giving Nortel another shot -- they're coming in next week with one of their security gurus to talk to me. I'd like them to succeed -- we have had a long and good relationship with the local team -- but I don't have a good feeling about their prospects. In fact, I don't have a good feeling for the company as a whole. Part of this is that my experience with them on the City WiFi project has left a sour taste in my mouth. But more gravely, they don't seem to have a coherent strategy, just a flock of products that sometimes overlap, sometimes excel, and sometimes flop. For all of the griping that I do at times about Cisco, they have a coherent vision. Nortel, not so much.
Time will tell. Though, not too much time, as I have to make a call on this in the next four weeks.