Simplicity Is Not Always Bliss

Opinion: Do-it-all vendors can introduce big complications to seemingly simple systems.

Simplicity as a concept is appealing.

If life were simple, you would deal with one vendor that could fix your problems, give you undivided attention, and make sure you are at the top of the list for upgrades and new beta products. But simplicity also has some major downsides. What happens when simplicity keeps you from getting your job done?

Consider the predicament that Greg Smith, vice president and CIO of the World Wildlife Fund, found himself in when the organizations primary T3 communication circuit went dead one recent evening. In this Internet era, the loss of your primary communication circuit is equivalent to closing up shop. It is not a situation you want to find yourself in for any length of time.

Now, Smith is a great dinner companion and always has an interesting story about what it takes to create an Internet connection from the top of the Andes, the middle of a desert or some remote jungle spot. In the end, he had an easier time connecting from a mountaintop than he had getting a technician to come to his organizations office in Washington to troubleshoot the failed circuit.

/zimages/5/28571.gifRead here about how Cisco and IBM have teamed up to help manage telco networks .

WWFs system failed at about 8 p.m., and "instead of deploying a technician to get WWF up and running sooner, the telecommunications giant [which controlled last-mile access] dispatched support the next morning, after 8 a.m.," Smith wrote to me in describing his problem. "It took another 3 hours for the problem to be resolved. Shortly thereafter, the problem at WWF was solved, but, unfortunately, after a [long] outage.

"Interestingly enough," Smith continued, "the technical support for these vendors also seems to be on the decline. The problem at WWF was not in the building or with the cabling, but at the central office of the last-mile vendor, which meant that a technician didnt need to be deployed at all and that the problem could have easily been fixed remotely in the middle of the night if the vendor had been paying more attention to the problem and had better technical troubleshooting."

You can read Smiths entire article at, but he said he believes that the big telcos monopoly on last-mile access to data centers will force CIOs to budget and build redundant data centers that are not tied to one large telco.

Smith was (justifiably) angry when he wrote about the travails his organization had to suffer through because his first-rate data center was still vulnerable to a single telco vendor. While these big vendors create simplicity by offering all the IT services a company could want, that simplicity becomes a burden when the service fails and there is no one to call for a backup.

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