Third party savings
In the not so distant past, using third party network accessories was a risky business. Plug a third party optic into a network switch, for example, and you risked invalidating the switch's warranty. Times change, though, and today, while the warranty issue can still raise its ugly head in mission critical networks, you can make your budget go much further by careful deployment of third party accessories in less critical areas.
This change has been paralleled in other areas. Recent Euro regulations have had a similar effect in the car market, for example, overturning the long standing requirement that cars be serviced at manufacturers' main agents. We all know that when buying a child's car seat, an upgraded car hi-fi system or even something as mundane as new wiper blades, there's no need to buy manufacturers' own products. Most of us are very happy to make savings by opting for third party alternatives, rightly confident that our vehicle warranties will not be affected.
The best of both worlds
Similarly, in the network world, while the manufacturers of our hypothetical switch aren't required to guarantee workability with every third party offering available, they also don't have the right to mess you around. Should you want to connect that switch to a component made by someone else (and there's every chance you will – most networks today draw on a rich mix of different manufacturers) then you have every right to do so. Your switch warranty should remain intact.
What is important is that your network support provider is fully aware of who is supplying what and what comes from where on your network. Failing to keep them fully up to speed could result in unpleasant surprises when the time comes to call on their services to sort out this or that problem on your network.
Explore every avenue
With the economy and trading conditions as tight as they are, and with many pundits predicting even more difficult times ahead, it is absolutely in your interest, and in your business' interest, to explore every possible avenue down which savings might be made. From the cable to the optics to the ways in which you connect your switches together, every saving made represents budget that can be deployed more profitably elsewhere – perhaps on upgraded core network infrastructure.
Of course, you may not need to go as far as actually specifying third party components in every case. Sometimes simply letting your manufacturer know that you are aware of the savings that you could make this way will be enough to encourage them to offer discounts, bring their own prices in line. Business is business, after all, and often, when they can't get what they want, they'll accept what's on offer.
It's all too easy to overpay by defaulting to your main network manufacturer even for simple components and all those overpayments add up. Used wisely, the same budget can pay for more important devices at the network core. Next time you are ordering network kit, take a long hard look at your shopping list to see where third party alternatives could help you make savings.