First and foremost, upgrades need to be justified. If you want to upgrade to 10G, but you are not exceeding 1G, then there’s no reason to switch. However, if your equipment is at the end of its lifecycle, or you are exceeding your port density on a somewhat regular basis, then an upgrade is in your near future.
Upgrades can be commonly broken down into two categories: lifecycle upgrades and technology upgrades. With lifecycle upgrades, you’ll be looking at a forklift upgrade, i.e. complete replacement of your equipment, because your equipment is at the end of its ‘life.’ With these upgrades, you need to ask a few questions:
First: what vendor should we choose?
Equipment lifecycles are in the five to ten year range, and many vendors and their solutions change significantly over this period of time. The vendor of choice five years ago may not be the industry leader any more. Shop around and choose the vendor that best fits your needs and budget. Remember, you’ll be with these guys for possibly a decade.
Many technology upgrades can be done via software or firmware updates. If the new technological features can be delivered via software, go with this as it has little disruption to your system. But if the software is contingent upon the hardware, as is common with brand-new technologies like 10G, a forklift upgrade is your best option.
Next question: Are single or multiple vendors the best with a forklift upgrade?
If you are upgrading a single technology, look to a single vendor as this will alleviate the issues that arise with mismatched network components. However, if you’re planning a major campus expansion (for example) and you have a clean slate, find the best vendor for your 10G backbone equipment, your wired delivery network, your VoIP network, and your new wireless network. These do not need to be, and in most cases should not be, the same vendor because different vendors have different strengths. But by staying consistent within a technology area, like wireless, you’ll eliminate most network component mismatches.
Final question: Is it time for you to update?