To spend, or not to spend — that is the question. Whether it’s wiser to invest in the latest and most-hyped hardware and suffer the great misfortune of mediocre talent, or to take the hit and invest in greater minds, and thus end troubles. We can wax poetic for much longer on the many dilemmas that accompany partitioning a budget, but we think our time is better spent providing an actual solution. The reality is that too much of funding is spent on hardware, and not enough is spent on investing in the people who make the technology mean something. In this blog post, we’ll help you understand the benefits of investing more money in employees, and then show you how you can reduce your TCO so that you can stop overspending on hardware and start investing in premium people.

What are the benefits of investing in people?

It pays to invest in people who can really make your company great. In fact, failing to properly invest in your hires can actually cost your company. A study in 2013 showed that seventy percent of American workers were actively disengaged at their job, which cost businesses more than $450 million. So, how do you keep your current employees engaged and ensure that you’re bringing on quality new people? The answer is to make spending on people a priority. Investing in your employees can benefit your company by boosting morale, increasing retention, and improving loyalty; it can even drive your company’s reputation, since companies that rank as “the best places to work” get lots of media attention.

What makes a premium network engineer?

With more of your resources now being dedicated to finding the best talent, you can be more picky about who you hire and choose the best of the best. Here are some of the qualities that indicate you’re looking at a premium future employee:

Creative problem solver: When looking for premium engineers, it’s important for those engineers to be team players who are also willing to be creative when given a problem to solve. They bring their own tool sets to the team and help create the most useful solutions to your networking problems.

Automation expert: Premium network engineers are always looking for a faster and better way to do something. Their goal should be to automate the repetitive network tasks to increase efficiency for themselves and the rest of the team.

Values Simplicity: Simplicity doesn’t mean lack of functionality. A premium network engineer knows that scalable networks need to be simple, so that they can easily integrate with web-scale technologies such as automation, validation and virtualization. Avoiding simplicity will only lead to cumbersome designs that are rooted in fear of job security through obscurity.

Embraces Change/Silo Buster: Networking is at a critical inflection point. Today’s networking engineer needs to bridge the gap between server, application and network. Embracing old world ideologies of silos and technical separation will not lead to the technological or business efficiencies that are necessary for today’s age. Premium network engineers need to understand the business applications that are driving the business, then enable end-to-end resources to ensure that pipeline continues to operate at maximum efficiency. In order to do so, the premium network engineer needs to educate themselves on the design, implementation and operation of service, application and compute resources.

Understands NetDevOps: NetDevOps means a lot of things to a lot of people — that’s why engineers that try to implement NetDevOps wear many hats, and thus are the most useful and resourceful. They may code validation testing scripts one day, then administer servers to work more efficiently with the network the next day. Your premium engineers are those who are willing to look beyond their role as a simple network engineer and take on tasks that are challenging and helpful to the overall success of the project. They understand the importance of taking software engineer principles such as infrastructure as code, branching off new features and validation in simulation, and implementing them as solutions in their regular day-to-day workflows.

How can I budget for premium workers?

One way to allocate funds for hiring great engineers is to reduce dependence on traditional hardware-first and vendor-locking ways to thinking. While this may sound like an “easier said than done” situation, there’s actually a fairly simple solution — switch from proprietary to open hardware.

Take a look at the above chart. If your company is purchasing proprietary hardware, chances are your company is spending 42 percent of its TCO on hardware alone. That’s hardware that will become obsolete and need replacement in three years. That is almost equal to the amount spent on personnel to design and maintain the networks. When your company chooses open hardware, the cost decreases rapidly to just 18 percent and 50 percent of IT’s budget is now put toward hiring top-notch engineers and systems administrators.

So, how does open hardware create such a drastic reduction in TCO? White box hardware is designed to take different open network operating systems such as Linux, as opposed to proprietary hardware which often has its own operating system. Proprietary hardware is typically more expensive, requires integration with hardware by the same vendor, has limited apps and may not support legacy systems. Open networks have proven operating systems where engineers can design and develop applications for your company’s particular requirements.

Consider the CapEx of purchasing proprietary switches. If your company purchased 20 proprietary leaf switches and two spine switches, your company would be paying around $391,000. If your company were to purchase white box switches, your company would be paying only $210,578. That saves your company more than $180,000.

The savings continue when considering OpEx. Because network engineers and systems administrators are no longer tied down to proprietary APIs and CLIs, they can do what they do best: design and develop systems to meet your company’s needs. Choose a network operating system such as Cumulus Linux will greatly enhance your company’s ability for agile automation. Your engineers will be able to use off the shelf solutions such as Chef, Puppet, Ansible, and Salt. The savings seen can be up to 80 percent of OpEx.

With an open network, you now have the ability for rapid deployment and testing. Since the prices are lower, purchasing extra switches to expand your network becomes simple as your IT department is no longer asking for hardware that costs nearly twice as much. The focus shifts from hardware to software, many which are off the shelf components or software which can be developed for your application by your engineers. Plus, you can leverage existing processes, automation tools and other open network apps to your full advantage without the headaches of a complex integration.

Are you ready to try open networking and reduce your TCO by up to 60 percent? Test out Cumulus Linux for free with Cumulus in the Cloud, a personal pre-built virtual data center that lets you play around with our technology. Start your data center revolution today!