When building a data center or enterprise resource plan (ERP), organizations inevitably have to make a simple but tricky decision: should they follow a single-vendor strategy, or use the best products they can find throughout the market without worrying about software or compatibility? As we will soon see, both methods have their pros and cons, and IT support looms large when choosing between them.
Deciding on a multi or single vendor portfolio is a relatively recent phenomenon. Before the age of “super-vendors” like Oracle, Microsoft and IBM, multi-vendor was the only game in town: no single brand produced all the products an enterprise could need for its information architecture. By the mid-2000s, the “one-stop-shop” model was pioneered by CISCO with its Unified Computing System (UCS), which it began to push heavily as an elegant alternative to the mix-and-match madness which reigned over data centers until that time.
CISCO’s argument was convincing, and to this day, it remains so:
- Ease of implementation: a multi-vendor approach involves numerous device profiles encompassing multiple operating systems, user interfaces, APIs and more. Setting up a network this way is difficult and labor intensive.
- Maintenance headaches: when multiple vendors comprise an IT portfolio, tech support can be a pain. Problems often arise which require overlapping skillsets that OEM technicians simply lack and coordinating service calls among different vendors creates inefficiency.
- Licensing deals: CISCO – like other companies who have followed in its footsteps – offers a significant licensing discount to clients who will deploy its products extensively or exclusively. A multi-vendor approach generally lacks this advantage, requiring multiple, full-priced licenses across vendors and product types.
- Compatibility: products from the same vendor are made to work with each-other, and frequently styled as “plug-and-play”. Today, organizations can expect high-level administration features from vendors which encompass and unify different equipment types.
In short, the single-vendor approach has been touted as the best way to simplify the process of building and managing a data center while significantly reducing costs. But when it was first raised, not everyone was convinced.
Choosing Best of Breed
Almost a decade ago, Gartner studied the difference between companies using a single or multi-vendor portfolio and found that some pretensions of the single vendor model fell apart under careful scrutiny. For instance, total cost of ownership (TCO) was lower for multi-vendor organizations, and operational complexity was not always found to correlate with the number of vendors operating in the enterprise.
More saliently, Gartner raised a powerful suggestion: not every organization benefits from a single-vendor model. Some organizations require power and functionality from their IT infrastructure that one vendor simply cannot provide. Choosing superior equipment regardless of its origin constitutes the “best of breed” approach to building enterprise architecture, and for some this works better, even if benefits of the single-vendor model are sacrificed as a consequence.
In any case, some time has passed since this debate was strictly relevant. By now, most organizations that want single-vendor IT have made the switch, and the rest have moved forward. However, not everyone agrees on the best way to service and maintain an IT portfolio.
The Benefits of Multi-Vendor Support
Multi-vendor maintenance and tech support is frequently superior to OEM support, and even organizations with a single-vendor portfolio can benefit from choosing a multi-vendor support team. Here are several reasons why:
- Flexibility – in the real world, “single-vendor” is rarely unalienable. The needs of an organization or data center change with time, and vendors often take up new directions which alienate some customers. Multi-vendor support gives organizations the flexibility to bring in new vendors when necessary without sacrificing operational efficiency.
- Lower cost – because they can handle a diverse IT portfolio, multi-vendor support can address more problems with fewer service calls. And since multi-vendor support is typically provided by skilled third-parties, competition reduces the price of labor. This translates to significant savings.
- Reduced complexity – without the need to juggle multiple OEM providers or coordinate overlapping skillsets, multi-vendor support reduces the complexity of servicing equipment and managing assets.
- Easier end-of-service transition – when equipment reaches the end of its service life, continuing operation can be difficult. Investing in multi-vendor support early on solves this problem through a single point of contact for ongoing maintenance and repair for all equipment no matter the warranty status.
Professional Multi-Vendor Support for Northern Virginia
Located near the booming data center corridor in Loudon County, VA, Digital Tech Inc provides rapid response maintenance services including EOSL extension, spare parts, short- and long-term maintenance agreements, migration assistance and depot repair options. Our skilled engineers offer multi-vendor support, covering IBM, HP, Dell EMC, Cisco, NetApp, and many more.
To learn more, contact us today.