Optical Networking, Redefined.
July 7, 2020

How NEMs Trap Network Operators into a Vendor-Lock Mentality

Ever bought a car? Do you remember how it went? You likely did your research, read reviews, thought about leasing over purchasing, and examined prices for a specific model online. After all that, maybe you went to the dealer and did a test drive. At the end of the day, you decided you were ready to sign the paperwork and buy the vehicle – let’s say a Ford. Do you remember in the contracts where it stated that any warranty for your car would be voided if you used tires that weren’t Ford approved? Of course not!

All right, you’re probably asking yourself what exactly buying a car has to do with optical networking equipment. Well, if your car manufacturer doesn’t dictate the tires you can use on your vehicle, why are network equipment manufacturers (NEMs) in the habit of dictating which transceivers you can use in your own networks? Say hello to fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) sales tactics.

It’s what happens when an NEM boasts about their customer-centric service while simultaneously pressuring you to avoid non-NEM optics lest you void their warranty, cause them to refuse to support you, or force them to turn off your optics (yes, real network professionals have heard all three of these claims). To give you some peace of mind and help you take back control in the face of FUD, we address the top questions we get from network operators below.

Does using a non-NEM optic really void my warranty?

We all know uptime is critical for MSOs, data centers and anyone else involved in network operation. When a big name NEM warns their customers that installing non-NEM optics will void their warranties, it definitely strikes fear into their minds. But, for the most part, this is really just a way NEMs pressure their clients into being 100% exclusive. Here is why this FUD tactic doesn’t stand up to the real world.

It’s called the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975. Basically, this federal statute bars manufacturers from ordering their customers to use only branded parts or upgrades within the application, product or system purchased. So, using a non-NEM optic in a network system otherwise full of other NEM optics isn’t going to void the warranty they offer. Just ask for them to put the language around voided warranties in writing. Chances are, they’ll back down.

Will my NEM really withhold support?

While NEMs can’t cancel their warranty because you use a non-NEM optic, they can make life difficult for you when it comes to support. Often, when it comes to troubleshooting, NEMs will spend a lot of time upfront making you prove that the cause of the issue isn’t a non-NEM product. They may even require you to remove any non-NEM transceivers in use before they get started on supporting you. While this is an inconvenience, you can easily get ahead of this.

It’s common practice already for network operators to store spare branded (and non-NEM) transceivers. In the event of an issue, checking your transceivers is always a good first step. Simply install the spare transceivers. If the issue persists, it’s clearly not the non-NEM equipment and your NEM owes you the support they’ve promised. If you use multiple branded and non-NEM optics within your network, Gartner recommends implementing “an 80/20 or 90/10 ratio of non-OEM to OEM-branded transceivers.” But here’s the bottom line. In the millions of transceivers Precision OT has sold, we’ve never had the experience of an NEM cutting one of our customers off for using our products.

Will my NEM turn off my optics?

You’ve probably heard the phrase: “nobody ever got fired for buying an NEM product.” That’s true, because individuals working for companies under the influence of FUD instead get in trouble if they buy a non-NEM optic and it fails, resulting in a network outage. Because network administrator careers can live and die by the metrics of uptime, NEMs can apply pressure on their customers to be 100% exclusive.

But will they turn off your optics for turning to a non-NEM part? The answer is a flat-out no. Nobody wins if they turn off your optics. They know that if they did, their customers would never come back to them for more equipment. Instead, their customers would be coming after them for adversely impacting their operations. Just chalk it up to FUD and move on.

But isn’t choosing a well-known NEM brand the smarter option, even if it’s a tad pricier?

It’s standard consumer practice to consider well-known brands even if they are pricier. Brand name says a lot. However, the reality is that if you have a non-NEM supplier, like Precision OT, with great reviews, proven customer service and impressive metrics, you can get the reliable optics you need at far more reasonable prices. NEMs use FUD to protect their margins.

And what margins they are! Gartner noted that “nearly all OEMs mark up transceivers much more than other hardware products…we observe enterprises overpaying for transceivers by 50% or more on a regular basis.” In our experience at Precision OT, we’ve seen customers paying 10 to 20 times more than what we charge for the same optics! When you factor in that all of our optics are NEM-compatible and intensively tested in our labs before they enter your networks, confining oneself to the big-name NEMs can be financial quicksand.

It’s time to say goodbye to FUD and the vendor-lock mentality NEMs try to impose on you. Find yourself a trusted, reliable non-NEM provider of optical networking equipment like Precision OT. You can get the NEM-compatible equipment you need, with reliable support (we offer lifetime warranties) – all at affordable prices that give you more room to grow. Call us today and see what we can do for you!