In the past, companies like Cisco have heavily promoted the ‘single vendor’ approach to network architecture as an easier, more cost-effective way to build and maintain data centers. But given the accelerated lifecycle of today’s IT solutions, many organizations accept that it’s no longer practical to limit company networks to just one manufacturer. Far from being ‘cheaper and easier,’ the practice of operating a single vendor network environment may lead to less competitive pricing and reduced flexibility between platforms—increasing data center complexity and costs for customers.
Downfalls of Operating a Single-Vendor Environment
One of the key issues facing customers is the gap between single vendor pricing and that seen within a competitive environment. Being tied to a single vendor may result in the suffocation of any competitive bidding from other vendors. The only clout businesses have comes during the negotiation period of the initial purchasing of a vendor’s products. To secure business, a vendor may offer discounted rates on products, but once the deal is solidified, it is extremely difficult to renegotiate this price.
Furthermore, it is almost unheard of for a single vendor to provide the best components for each individual aspect of a business environment. Therefore, organizations often settle for products that are a good fit—but not the best.
The Benefits of a Multi-Vendor Approach
Today, organizations are rapidly realizing they are able to control costs and reduce network complexity by adopting a multi-vendor approach.
While some IT leaders may be concerned that adding technology vendors will only serve to increase network complexity, research from IT advisory firm, Gartner, demonstrates this is not the case. According to Gartner’s study, most organizations actually reduced the complexity of their networks after introducing a second vendor. Organizations that introduce additional vendors to their data centers “reduce total cost of ownership by at least 15 to 25 percent over a five-year time frame.” By introducing competition for existing products, organizations ensure vendors are continuously vying for their business—keeping costs competitive for both short- and long-term budgets.
The Gartner report clearly exposes a number of common misconceptions surrounding the operation of a multi-vendor network environment. A single-vendor environment is not less complicated, easier to manage, nor more reliable than a network operating with multiple vendors. In fact, organizations do not need extra personnel to manage a multi-vendor network environment, and “the total initial capital costs and ongoing maintenance expenses of the environment were clearly higher in a Cisco-only network.”
Getting Back to Basics
It’s important that CIO’s and network architects regularly re-assess their relationship and contracts with vendors—no matter how long-standing it may be. In order to control costs and maintain flexibility, business leaders need to adopt solutions that integrate well with other systems, making it easier to adopt newer technologies without reinventing the wheel. One way to do this is to consider partnering with an independent technical provider of networking hardware, architectures, procurement, and support.
Multi-vendor networks encourage the use of building infrastructures with standards-based technology instead of proprietary solutions, giving customers more options and greater flexibility in case of a product upgrade or technology refresh. In today’s rapidly evolving networking industry, avoiding vendor ‘lock-in’ is key to controlling costs and ensuring interoperability.