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Multi-Vendor vs. Single-Vendor: Making the Choice

Guest Post by Contributing Author Ken Presti

The IT industry has long debated the benefits of single-vendor networks vs. multi-vendor networks. We sometimes act as though this discussion were unique or somehow surprising. But that’s not really true. After all, the people at Coke never asked you to drink Pepsi. And the folks at General Motors were never really all that taken with the idea of you tooling around in a Ford or a Lexus. So every time I hear about the benefits of single-vendor, a part of my brain thinks, “This just in!…… A sales guy thinks you should buy his products!”

But another part of my brain also recognizes that IT systems are different from cars. You buy your car from a single vendor. With the possible exception of hobbyists and other gear-headed types, nobody buys or designs cars that are part Chevy, part Toyota, and part Lamborghini. A Chevyoghini? Never mind.

IT environments on the other hand, you can be mixing and matching any number of vendors for your software, network, client computers, servers, and everything else. To the extent that everything is standards-based, and therefore mandated by the industry to work together, everything should be fine, or at least basically operable.

The issue from a vendor standpoint is that each one tries to differentiate itself by adding its own secret sauce that pertains only to its own products, despite the adherence to standards. So when they do this right, the basic functionality will be there when it comes to working with other people’s stuff, but some of the cooler, more advanced features may be limited by the presence of competing products.

On the other hand, a heterogeneous IT environment often opens the door to buying less expensive gear. So there’s a very definite tradeoff based on your company’s specific needs and budget realities.

Your channel partner will be able to advise you based on your specific circumstances, but it basically breaks down like this: If your use of IT is very simple (by IT standards), and it’s not 100% central to how you deliver your products or services, then a single vendor environment might only be beneficial in terms of preserving your long-range options. But to the extent that you value advanced features designed to tighten the integration, or provide extensive diagnostic capabilities intended to bolster uptime, then a single-vendor environment might be the way to go.

Or maybe you just value color-coordinated racks of gear. No? Okay, I didn’t think so.

But it completely makes sense to spend some time discussing “single vs. multi” with your channel partner. Your partner will undoubtedly understand the extent to which you’re fully leveraging the capabilities of your system, and they also tend to have a nose for helping their customers save money without leaving too much capability behind.

It’s always good to try to save money, but it’s also important to look at the larger costs. Your channel partner can be instrumental in bringing these two values together for the good of your company and your customers.

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