Elka Popova's Blog


Single-vendor or Best-of-breed UC Architecture: Decision Makers Have Cast their Vote

08 Nov 2012 | by Elka Popova
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Frost & Sullivan recently conducted a survey of 263 North American IT decision makers including C-level executives and IT management. The survey explored awareness and usage of various unified communications and collaboration (UCC) tools and applications, trends in communications devices, ICT infrastructure, and hosted and managed services, and budget plans.

One of the questions we asked was about the type of UCC infrastructure businesses are deploying today and the way they expect it to evolve over the next two years.

Not surprisingly, almost half (49 percent) of respondents state that they are using multiple products from multiple vendors that are not tightly integrated. Of the rest, 31 percent are currently using single-vendor UCC solutions and 20 percent are using tightly integrated multi-vendor solutions. However, the data indicate a strong shift toward the latter two types of UCC architecture over the next two years. Only less than a quarter (24 percent) of survey respondents envision having a multi-vendor, non-integrated UCC architecture in 2014.

The move away from disparate multi-vendor solutions does not surprise anyone. It takes a huge cost and effort to support and maintain diverse technologies within the organization. Furthermore, different product  lifecycles and technology evolution roadmaps require constant IT staff training and retraining and a lot of focus on managing multiple vendor relationships. From an end-user point of view, the benefits of “unified” communications (productivity, efficiency, etc.) are lost.

The more interesting result is the almost equal split of those choosing a single-vendor architecture and those going with tightly integrated, best-of-breed solutions. Very much like the U.S. electorate, IT decision makers must be seeing compelling reasons to choose one option over the other based on some specific factors within their organizations. Single-vendor architecture seems to be winning the popular vote with 40 percent of respondents against 37 percent for tightly integrated multi-vendor solutions.

However, the bigger shift over the next couple of years is towards integrated best-of-breed solutions. While the percentage of those using single-vendor architectures is expected to increase by only 9 percent from 31 percent in 2012 to 40 percent in 2014, the percentage of those choosing integrated best-of-breed solutions is likely to grow by 17 percent from 20 percent in 2012 to 37 percent in 2014.

Adding together those using non-integrated multi-vendor technologies with those using integrated multi-vendor technologies, the broader group of best-of-breed architecture proponents is the clear winner with 60 percent of total respondents in 2014.

Here is how we see the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches:

Single-vendor UC architecture

Benefits:

  • Deeper interoperability and integrations among various UC components
  • Deeper discounts when deploying a broad applications set from the same vendor
  • Streamlined management and maintenance of multiple applications
  • Fewer vendor relationships to maintain; greater vendor accountability
  • Single-vendor roadmap/vision – smoother and more predictable evolution 

Challenges:

  • Lock-in with a certain vendor and technology stack
  • May force price, functionality, performance or other compromises
  • More complex management and maintenance of heterogeneous solutions
  • Potentially limited ability to protect existing technology investments
  • Single-vendor roadmap/vision – innovation and choices may be limited

 

Best-of-Breed Ecosystem 

Benefits:

  • Reduced risk of vendor or technology lock-in
  • Choose platforms based on price, features or performance
  • Often more open and flexible platforms/ technologies
  • Greater choices within broad partner ecosystems

Challenges:

  • Potentially limited interoperability and integration across multiple vendor platforms
  • Multiple vendor roadmaps may pose challenges in the long run
  • Comparatively more complex management and maintenance

In conclusion, I wish to reiterate that multiple factors can dictate the use of one approach over the other. Those could include existing investments, vendor relationships, quality and reliability of specific products and solutions, as well as the weight and importance assigned to any of the criteria listed above. Yet, decision makers have cast their vote.

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