Simply put, the overall cost amounts to the purchase price plus the man hours to maintain the service/solution, including factors such as provisioning costs, ancillary hardware maintenance, deployment times, design, implementation and almost anything else that requires a human's touch.
All of that quickly adds up, increasing the true cost of an IT solution, while reducing the return on investment. What's worse, the true costs often escalate and then exceed original estimates, ultimately making a CTO look incompetent in the eyes of the bean counters.
Interestingly, this is not a technical problem, but a management problem-something the typical CTO has to deal with, yet this management problem has a technical solution. Some vendors understand this dilemma and are trying to do something about it and spawning all sorts of new buzz words and phrases at the same time-terms such as unified management, single pane of glass controls, comprehensive dashboards, event-driven batch processes, federated management, ITIL compliance and so on.
The savvy CTO can filter through the alphabet soup of terms, acronyms and ideologies to realize one fact-ease of use (from an administration point of view) equals improved ROI. Case in point is a recent product review that I completed, one that focused as much on the inherent technology as well as the unification of management process-as I tested the product, I became very well aware of the time savings offered by unified management.
Sure, I have experienced time savings in the past due to enhanced dashboards, improved interfaces and so on, but the difference here is that testing this particular offering from Enterasys Networks involved provisioning wireless and wired infrastructure and generating access policies, as well as security. Being able to create those policies and apply them across the whole test infrastructure saved me countless hours of having to manually configure different components, and also being able to manage traffic and access from a single unified console made testing that much easier.
All in all, the process educated me on the tremendous value offered by federated (or unified) management, and those capabilities easily telegraph into the data center, where time savings can grow exponentially. The lesson here is to not only look at what a technology offers, but what overhead is needed to deploy, provision, secure and manage that technology.