Supporting Today’s Multi-Vendor Networks

Multi-vendor environments are quickly becoming the new normal. How does this impact IT pros? Time to prep yourself with broader, vendor-neutral skillsets.

IT professional with a beard and glasses working in a server room.Computer networks provide the underlying fabric for business by powering operations and creating the technical environment that lets users attend to everyday challenges. The varied nature of business problems and the availability of diverse solutions makes it hard to land on a single provider to supply an end-to-end solution. This problem has led to increased interest in multi-vendor environments.

We live in a world of constant technology flux. It seems there is a new selection of tools and apps available every day to help you meet a plethora of business demands. Having a wide collection of tools at your disposal seems like a win — allowing you to choose the best solution for the job. But, with a multi-vendor networking environment comes certain obstacles that must be managed if you want to implement a successful stack.

What Is a Multi-Vendor Environment?

A multi-vendor environment refers to a computer network that supports tools from more than one manufacturer, vendor or provider. This is often considered to be a hybrid approach where companies add applications and platforms to their environment to solve for particular business problems.

For example, a company may choose a cloud service to gather data from many different origins. A computer networking professional would then be asked to make sure that the cloud implementation is using networking resources properly because the cloud service and the networking resources come from different vendors.

Another example could include upgrading computer networking components. If a network switch is not adequate and needs an upgrade, networking professionals will be asked to provide information about where the bottleneck is and how to optimize routing and switching. If the vendor of the existing equipment does not offer the right solution, the networking pro may choose something from a different vendor.

By contrast, a single-vendor solution involves using solutions from one single provider.

Multi-Vendor vs. Single-Vendor Environment

Opting for a single-vendor environment versus a multi-vendor one is often determined by things such as functionality and ease of implementation. Here are a few of the pros and cons of multi-vendor vs. single-vendor environments.

  • Capability, Choice and Fit: Organizations will focus on the equipment and services that best fulfill their needs. While cost is a factor, organizations will prioritize the proper fit for the equipment. Considerations include how well the particular device or service makes it possible for the business to function at a high level.
  • Implementation: Implementing a single-vendor environment is an easier process. Because all tools are programmed to work together, you don’t run into problems with compatibility. With multi-vendor environments, implementation can be more difficult. Challenges arise with compatibility, and increased complexity makes it difficult to merge all tools into one comprehensive whole.
  • Functionality: The primary problem that arises with a single-vendor environment is the lack of functionality to fit every problem. Often, departments will push for particular solutions because they solve for a specific pain point. Single-vendor environments often don’t meet the end-to-end needs of businesses. When this happens, IT professionals may try to develop workarounds, which ultimately leads to a cumbersome network that is difficult to manage.
  • User Adoption: User adoption can be a challenge in any environment. In a multi-vendor environment, departments can access more relevant tools rather than trying to hobble along with a partially functioning solution.
  • User Education: With a multi-vendor environment, you will likely need more training, whereas with a single-vendor environment, your users will be accustomed to the interfaces, platforms and equipment. Larger accounts – companies that purchase multiple solutions from a single vendor – are often rewarded with training on how to use the solutions. In a multi-vendor environment, you may be viewed as a smaller account and thus not offered custom or live training options.
  • Maintenance: Updates and maintenance are a necessary task in any configuration. With single-vendor environments, upgrades can be simpler as they originate from one provider and apply to the overall environment. With multi-vendor environments, updates come from separate providers and may create compatibility or other issues. Additionally, it’s up to you to troubleshoot and manage these tasks. The more complex your network becomes the more difficult maintenance can be. More frequent updates also take more time and manpower to implement, as well as a breadth of knowledge to support.

The Skills You Need to Work in a Multi-Vendor Environment

As more companies move from single-vendor environments to multi-vendor environments, it’s becoming essential that IT professionals become knowledgeable in a wider selection of tools. Advanced tech stacks are going to require the ability to maintain multiple tools and support an evolving and scalable environment.

CompTIA IT certifications are vendor neutral, making them ideal for IT professionals supporting a multi-vendor environment. Instead of focusing on managing one single environment, CompTIA certifications such as CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+ and CompTIA Cloud+ validate the knowledge, processes and techniques that can be applied to any technical environment, regardless of vendor.

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