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Reference Customers

by Andrew Lerner  |  January 27, 2015  |  Submit a Comment

In talking to clients,  we often guide them to ask for reference customers.  This is particularly important for emerging technology such as SDN.

However, clients have asked for more detail around what specifically to ask these reference customers. In addition, as analysts we take a lot of reference calls, I probably do 25-50 p/year with early adopters of new technologies and have a pretty standard set of questions, to extract the key value and differentiation a vendor provides.

So here’s a base set of questions (side note for vendors – these are the questions I am asking your reference customers, in all likelihood).

  1.  What was the biggest driver(s) / goal(s) to move towards this solution (i.e., agility, cost, scale/capacity, availability, standard refresh, future-proofing)?
  2. Did you achieve the goals above? For example, If cost, did you save money and how much? If agility, did you improve provisioning times, and by how much?
  3. Tell me a little bit about your current environment, specifically:
    • What type of apps are running on the infrastructure?
    • What is the scale of the current deployment? A metric that is pretty universal is the number of servers (physical and/or virtual).
    • Who are your key infrastructure vendors (compute, network, storage, virtualization, security, ADC/WOC, monitoring/mgmt tools)?
  4. What is the criticality of the deployed environment (i.e.,. Lab, Test, Dev, QA, Staging, Pre-Prod, Prod)?
  5. What other alternatives (if any) did you consider?
  6. What were the key differentiators that drove you towards the vendor’s solution versus alternatives? This is really the money question, and the key is whether these differentiators apply to your environment.
  7. What degree of support have you been provided by the vendor (standard support of white-glove treatment)? Was professional services required?  How long did deployment take?
  8. What has been the best part and/or biggest positive surprise about the deployment?
  9. What has been the biggest weakness (shortcoming) related to the deployment?
  10. How did you handle staffing, was re-organization, training or cultural shifts required?
    • Related question: What is your primary mechanism for configuration?  GUI, CLI, API, Mix, Other?
  11. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the vendor’s solution?
  12. Would you use this vendor again and/or recommend this vendor to others?
  13. What is the one thing you wish you’d done differently?

Regards, Andrew

And some related research…

Four Key Questions to Ask Your Data Center Networking Vendor

Ask Your SDN Vendor Seven Key Questions Before You Buy

Additional Resources

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Category: networking  sdn  

Tags: reference-customers  sdn  

Andrew Lerner
Research Vice President
6+ years at Gartner
21 years IT Industry

Andrew Lerner is a Vice President in Gartner Research. He covers enterprise networking, including data center, campus and WAN with a focus on emerging technologies (SDN, SD-WAN, and Intent-based networking). Read Full Bio

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