Best-of-Breed vs. Single Vendor Networking: How to Decide?
By: Alan Seal on December 26, 2018
As organizations shift their IT focus to subscription based-services and cloud-based applications, they have many decisions to make when it comes to implementing their networking infrastructure. One of the biggest choices they face is whether to use a single vendor for services or turn to a variety of best-of-breed solutions. Fortunately, the range of options available are growing every day. As companies try to decide what solution will work best for them, it helps to understand the differences between single vendors and best-of-breed providers.
A single-vendor networking infrastructure utilizes the integrated services of one provider. It offers a simple, one-size-fits-all solution that allows companies to obtain all the network services they need without having to worry about integration or working across multiple platforms. With a single vendor, employees can log into one unified system and freely move between applications that are designed to work concurrently. There’s no need to worry about transferring data or assets from one system to another, and the provider is able to troubleshoot any problems that emerge more effectively because they support the entire architecture.
Single-vendor solutions are ideal for smaller companies that don’t have highly specific requirements for their IT networks. Since they don’t need especially complex applications, they can get everything they may need from a single vendor and save significantly on implementation costs. For larger businesses that have very specific needs within their industry vertical, they may be willing to pay enough to convince a single-vendor provider to design a customized solution for them. This can be expensive, but the convenience of keeping every application within the same infrastructure can sometimes be worth the price and beneficial to IT professionals.
Sometimes a company has workload needs that only a specialty vendor can provide. In these circumstances, they can’t afford to get by with applications that lack the full functionality their industry demands. The situation becomes even more complicated when different departments within an organization have different IT needs. Software developers may need one system, for example, while accounting needs a different platform to do its job effectively. To meet all of these needs, companies must identify the leading providers for each solution (hence the term “best-of-breed”).
Specialty solutions usually offer far more features and functionality than those offered by single vendors. They may be more expensive and be more difficult to integrate into a broader network, but the difference between the ideal solution and a “close enough” compromise can often carry even more significant costs in terms of lost revenue, missed opportunities, and compliance liability. Today’s best-of-breed solutions are generally easier to integrate and support than they were in years past, making it a more viable option for companies that need the improved performance they offer. Even so, smaller companies with limited budgets for their IT deployments may not be able to afford the implementation expenses.
Which One is Best for You?
Three key factors will generally determine which solution is better for an organization.
First of all, companies and their IT professionals should always consider what they need their networking infrastructure to deliver before they move on to questions of cost or practicality. Sometimes, the demands of an industry necessitate a specific solution. A healthcare company, for instance, has too many specialized needs to risk using anything other than the most up-to-date, best-of-breed services. On the other hand, a company providing consulting or marketing services may be able to perform quite effectively with a versatile single-vendor system.
The second issue is one of deployment and cost. A single vendor solution will generally involve a unified cloud architecture, where all data management, computing, and applications are provided through a single provider. This is generally easier for IT professionals to set up and utilize, but may present some security issues if the company doesn’t want its data located in a public cloud environment. Best-of-breed solutions will involve either a hybrid cloud or multi-cloud architecture that integrates every application and service into a comprehensive network environment. A data center provides a strong, versatile foundation for this networking infrastructure, but a company may have to do quite a bit of work before it can integrate all of these solutions effectively. Unified solutions will always have some cost benefits, but for many companies, the added expense of building and managing a customized hybrid or multi-cloud can pay off down the line.
Lastly, it’s important they think about long-term needs. A single-vendor solution may be easy to implement and operate, but it also carries the possibility of vendor lock-in. If all of a company’s data and networking infrastructure is tied up with a single provider, it could be difficult for them to make changes in the future. Some providers make it difficult to retrieve data in a usable form, effectively trapping companies into their vendor relationships. Companies looking for more flexibility would do well to consider a best-of-breed solution that allows them to keep some data under their control in a private cloud environment while having the freedom to shift from provider to provider for additional services.
As IT needs and solutions become more complex, companies will continue to weigh the costs and benefits of turning to a single provider or piecing together a more customized solution through best-of-breed providers. Whatever decisions they make, data centers will be there, playing a key role in implementing those services.
About Alan Seal
Alan Seal is the VP of Engineering at vXchnge. Alan is responsible for managing teams in IT support and infrastructure, app development, QA, and ERP business systems.