With all the articles written about IPv4 addresses running out, Forrester’s phone lines are lit up like a Christmas tree. Clients are asking what they should do, who they should engage, and when they should start embracing IPv6. Like the old adage “It takes a village to raise a child,” Forrester is only one component; therefore, I started to compile a list of vendors and tactical documentation links that would help customers transition to IPv6. As I combed through multiple sites, the knowledge and documentation chasm between vendors became apparent. If the vendor doesn’t understand your business goals or have the knowledge to solve your business issues, are they a good partner? Are acquisition and warranty costs the only or largest considerations to making a change to a new vendor? I would say no.

Support documentation and availability to knowledge is especially critical in networking design, deployment, maintenance, and upgrades. Some pundits have relegated networking to a commodity play, but networking is more than plumbing. It’s the fabric that supports a dynamic business connecting users to services that are relevant to the moment, are aggregated at the point of use, and originate from multiple locations. The complexity has evolved from designing in a few links to tens of hundreds of relationships (security, acceleration, prioritization, etc.) along the flow of apps and data through a network. Virtualization, convergence, consolidation, and the evolving data center networks are prime examples of today’s network complexity. In response to this complexity, architects and practitioners turn to books, training materials, blogs, and repositories so that they can:

  • Set up an infrastructure more quickly or with a minimal number of issues, since there is a design guide or blueprint.
  • Seamlessly integrate video, security, automation, etc., into the infrastructure.
  • Solve problems or bugs.
  • Leverage best practices.
  • Understand fundamentals of a particular technology, feature, or standard.

Scouring through a few vendor sites, I found a huge difference in the availability of materials as well as how relevant and current they were. This analysis isn’t scientific, but kudos to Juniper Networks, F5, and Cisco. If you’re looking for design guides to technical explanations of standards, they have fantastic research dens. Let’s look at this from another direction. By normalizing the amount of knowledge open to the industry against the size of the companies, Juniper Networks and F5 are doing an amazing job being open and propelling the industry forward compared with HP, which has 324,000 employees and very little documentation. Most of HP’s documents were difficult to find and were 80% to 90% marketing language. Open standards can only be supported by open documentation and information. Although I only listed the results for IPv6, I ran across the same trend in regard to OSPF and new data center networking technologies.

Here’s a comparison of available documentation between Juniper and HP:

Juniper Networks— A search on Juniper’s site brought up a ton of IPv6 information, plus a link to their IPv6 site. I only included a fraction of the results:

HP — I typed “IPv6” into HP’s search engine on their website, and it came up with pages of jetdirect config stuff. Through Google, I found HP’s IPv6 website, which listed the following whitepapers for networking:

Information is a critical component for any business. Network World just added another 15 sites to its original 20 that it thought provided the best networking documentation and knowledge in the industry. When you’re looking for change in your architecture, business, or choice of technology partners, make sure to balance cost and warranty with the amount of information, expertise, and openness the vendor will make available to your business.