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A multi-vendor approach to cloud strategy

One of the questions I often get when talking to potential clients is ‘Why Dimension Data Cloud?’, and it’s got me thinking about what my response should be. It’s a valid question, one that should be answered with the client’s best interests in mind (but so rarely is by most vendors). The easy answer, of course, is that we have the best SLA in the industry; our platform is based on best-of-breed enterprise-class hardware; and that’s just to name a few. All of this is important, but does it really answer the question? Probably not. And after thinking about it further, it raised another question for me: Why just one vendor? Surely one vendor is not equipped to provide all the answers to an organisations’ IT needs and surely not everything fits in a single style of cloud?

Why/When should a multi-vendor approach be considered?

For example, let’s look at Microsoft’s Office 365 solution, which in its own right is a true cloud SaaS solution. It offers all the basic requirements for most organisations’ requirements for email, collaboration and communications. But what if you require SharePoint customisation or maybe you require PABX integration for Lync, Office 365 can’t help you. The problem is that Office 365 offers everything you need for Exchange hosting – so what do you do? This is where a multi-vendor approach works very well. Moving your Exchange ecosystem to Office 365, then your SharePoint and Lync platforms to an alternate provider such as Dimension Data. This would allow you to have the most cost-effective hosted email platform provided in a multitenant public cloud environment and then your collaboration and communications systems in a private and therefore customisable cloud. You can have both, no longer do you have to choose one or the other.

Consider how workloads may interconnect

e-Commerce platforms are workloads that have many interconnected parts and require careful planning if considering a move to cloud. However, these systems also reap the biggest benefits. Consider how each tier of the platforms operates with the next. Does the application tier require a low latency (sub 10ms) connection to the database tier? What payment gateway systems are in use? Do these require private line connections or are they accessible over SSL / VPN connections? Map out your application and work out what all the connections are. You may be surprised about how many systems connect to such platforms.

How will this approach be managed? Will it mean a larger overhead for my team / vendor manager?

The biggest concern for IT Managers is the “finger-pointing” between vendors when something goes wrong. Indeed this can be an issue and must be managed at the start of any engagement. Clear lines of responsibility must be drawn. Sometimes even a framework agreement between two providers may be necessary. This is where a supplier or vendor manager comes to the fore. The vendors must be held accountable and be transparent in providing their elements of the service. In the example of Office 365 above it would be clear, as Exchange is with Office 365 and SharePoint and Lync are with another provider. Only where there are elements of federation between these components is there cause for concern, but these are easily managed. In the case of Dimension Data, we could provide both the Office 365 platform and the private cloud for SharePoint and Lync to provide single vendor responsibility.

How would different SLAs between providers give a better outcome?

A simple question I ask IT managers is, ‘Do you provide the same internal SLA for all the applications the business uses?’ The answer is always, no – of course not. Then why setup and incur costs for the best SLA available when you don’t need it? It’s simply not good business sense.

If a cloud provider offers daily backup for seven years, out of region disaster recovery, host redundancy, storage replication etc., etc. If you choose all the options, you can achieve the best SLA possible, sure, at a cost. For some applications that are business critical, all of these might be required, but for others they are not. Match your internal SLA to your providers’ and the features therein to meet your objective.

One vendor can’t do it all, most of the time.

Each vendor has its strengths and weaknesses, and this extends into cloud as well. This is why you see cloud vendors offering “add-ons” to standard product offerings. These may be to add additional security layers or provide Content Delivery Network (CDN) ecosystems. This shows that one vendor can’t do it all, all of the time and that some third party add-ons are required to meet your objectives. However, there are some cloud vendors that can manage this end-to-end for you.

Now, I have a clear answer to the client question of “Why Dimension Data Cloud?” Because we are a partner, not a vendor. With our significant SI experience, we can bring together the entire solution with end-to-end management of deployment, integration, migration and on-going managed services.

This is what sets us apart from the vendors.

Keith Austin

Keith Austin is a Cloud Solution Architect at Dimension Data Hong Kong. Driven by his passion for helping IT deliver...