An argument for the single cloud vendor approach

Using multiple cloud providers lets you cash in on technological strengths, but placing all IT resources in one vendor basket has some advantages too.

One rule of thumb among IT pros has been to avoid putting all their eggs in one vendor basket. The thinking has been to diversify across multiple vendors, giving enterprises the best option for each resource. But when it comes to virtualization and private cloud, one cloud vendor might actually be better in certain situations.

A single-vendor solution gives you a single point of contact for any problems you encounter over the life of the [product].

Ken Hess,
co-author, Practical Virtualization Solutions: Virtualization from the Trenches

One of the reasons companies virtualize environments and build private clouds is to reduce overall costs. And a multivendor approach can negate any cost savings, said Lynn Greiner, an IT pro based in Toronto who's in favor of the single-vendor approach.

"In a virtual environment, you need the flexibility to shuffle virtual machines around, depending on load and other requirements," Greiner said. "That's rather hard to do optimally with a mix of virtualization technologies. And although some tools will manage multiple vendors' products, in many cases a heterogeneous environment will require multiple management tools and staff with additional training. That adds cost."

Ken Hess, co-author of the book Practical Virtualization Solutions: Virtualization from the Trenches, is also a big believer in a one-vendor approach.

"When you mix and match vendors and solutions, it's like trying to build a car using parts from three or four different automobile manufacturers," Hess noted. "You might be successful in creating a solution that works, but it won't be an optimal product."

Hess also likes the idea of having one throat to throttle if something goes wrong. If you have multiple vendors, he argued, it becomes too easy for vendors to point fingers at each other instead of taking the blame.

"A single-vendor solution gives you a single point of contact for any problems you encounter over the life of the [product]. Your single-source vendor holds ultimate responi sibility for the solution," Hess said.

On the flip side, using a single cloud vendor means you could be held hostage if there is a substantial price hike or a change in contract terms. And a single vendor may do some things well, but they rarely do everything well, which means you'll be stuck with some weaker offerings.

But Greiner isn't always against mixing things up, if your staff can handle it. Using multiple cloud providers lets you take advantage of the best technology for any given task.

"There may be software that runs better on one or another virtualization product. Or you may have completely separate requirements that lend themselves to separate virtual infrastructures," she added. "If there's a significant cost advantage, you may want to choose different technology for each environment."

Like every other big IT decision, CIOs have to evaluate the pros and cons of each approach and decide which one works best for their organization. With a multivendor cloud computing approach, you can leverage the best technologies, but there's also something to be said for a single point of contact.

About the author:
Ron Milleris a freelance technology journalist, blogger and contributing editor for EContent Magazine. He has been writing about technology since 1988; his publishing credits include InsideCRM, CIO.com, Streaming Media Magazine, eWeek, BusinessWeek SmallBiz and Network World. He has also written white papers, documentation and training for a variety of corporate clients.

This was first published in October 2013

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