Typical IT strategies and layouts in startups and large organizations are inevitably complex as businesses tend to see their IT infrastructure expand organically over time. This results in most application delivery platforms being comprised of a mix of hardware and software components and services provided by a wide range of suppliers. Such multi-vendor loadouts are true for servers, storage solutions, networking equipment, multi-cloud services, as well as load balancers and application delivery controllers (ADCs).

There are advantages to having a diverse selection of hardware and software across multiple IT vendors. A diverse IT strategy protects against simultaneous, disruptive attacks by malicious actors or viruses. However, there are also massive disadvantages to multi-vendor upkeep. Managing multiple IT platforms increases management and support complexity, with each product or solution requiring unique deployment roadmaps, using separate management tools, and producing non-conforming reporting formats.

This has to led organisations – especially in APAC – struggling to control multiple IT vendors in their IT environments.

Our recent joint study with Forrester[1] saw 82% of respondents from APAC organizations wanting better multi-vendor management in their IT infrastructure. A majority of organizations in Singapore, Indonesia, and Australia believe it is a high (if not critical) IT priority for their businesses. Further prodding revealed that 71% of APAC firms juggle with at least 4 unique infrastructure providers at any given time. Across the U.S. and the U.K., ZK Research found that approximately one-third of companies surveyed struggle with having no centralized management for their IT processes. Decision makers want simplified management, preferably with some automation, and they want it now.

A single point of management

Companies who are looking to simplify IT management are already aware that a digitally-ready workplace is one designed to accommodate or augment human value. Various approaches have been taken to reduce this management complexity. Cross-platform management tools, and adoption of scripting languages such as Microsoft PowerShell, have made it easier to automate the management of server systems and applications. In an ideal environment, managing multiple vendors implements a variety of solutions tailored to the business’s needs, but these approaches need a mindset update to keep up with new management tools.

For example, the orchestration layer in your IT stack can help streamline application deployment and its subsequent management. The traditional solution was to engage human input and implement orchestration to create a streamlined reporting platform. Now, it is possible to manage vendors using a single management console that pulls unstructured data from the APIs of various platforms, before aggregating into actionable data points. Developers and IT leads can rely on these management tools to monitor application traffic and server health from a workload perspective, optimize an application’s behaviour through caching, compression and content switching, and limit service access based on configured policies.

Decision makers can also look towards vendors who provide tried-and-tested deployment templates for common server load configurations, taking an additional layer of complexity away from the beginning of new deployments. If iterations (for scalability or granular distribution methods) are required, having a single management console that integrates would enable IT to make faster decisions on changes across network, application, third-party load balancer, and even security domains.

Strategizing for future multi-vendor approaches

Business requests often permeate IT’s decision making. Our research showed that 91% of APAC organisations want speed and agility in load balancing and app deployment, while a good 90% also want the ability to scale workloads easily and quickly. Other demands include flexible consumption where organisers pay only what they used (40%) and increased automation across their various servers (60%).[2] Informing vendors of these new demands ahead of time helps vendors become more targeted in serving organisational needs, instead of locking-in to SLAs (service-level agreements) or contracts that do not address the needs of your BUs.

Beyond relying on vendors to integrate the latest offerings into storage, networking, and app delivery layers, the organisation’s IT leads stand to benefit more when they research on industry advancement and vendor’s ability to provide with the best-fit approach in mind.

Since IT infrastructure is typically a massive commitment (of time and human resources, if not finances), it’s worth finding out if your preferred vendors carry products and services that come with inherent platform cross-compatibility, or the nature of vendor lock-ins by checking fine prints. Involving opinions of key business verticals can help define, if not fine-tune the selection process based on business priorities. Our studies showed that HR Management software, Finance and Accounting software, and Enterprise Resourcing Planning software are core APAC-business applications that are increasingly developed for cloud environments.

In all, managing vendors should be a key role in any IT strategy itself, but the complexity can be mitigated by centralizing your IT management with the right centralization and oversight tools, deployment approaches, and support backed by the latest developments in your field.

Tony Sandberg, Regional Director, APAC, Kemp

[1] State of AX Report, Kemp, 2019

[2] State of AX Report, Kemp, 2019