Best of Breed vs. Unified Platform

By David Tumlin

A question that many network and security architects ask is this… “Should you deploy point solutions (often called “Best of Breed”) that perform a single function extremely well, or a suite of integrated products that perform the needed functions “well enough”?”  The answer may not be as obvious as it seems.

First, let me define what I am talking about.  “Best of Breed” point solutions are generally products that are produced by a company that puts much of its emphasis on producing a solution that does one thing (or a few things) very well.  They also tend to be more innovative and have more features than their counterparts.

A “Unified Platform” is a suite of solutions that cover most areas of need, all integrated with one another, all managed from a single user interface, often referred to as a “Single Pane of Glass”.  It usually does some things very well, but others just adequately.  Ease of management and interoperability of different functions are the differentiating factors.

I will not use any vendors as specific examples because, in many cases, a vendor can sell both.  A vendor may sell a unified solution but only one product within the suite is Best of Breed.  For example, a Next Generation Firewall vendor may have a highly rated firewall, but their Intrusion Prevention may not have features that the market leaders in that space have.  One organization may be uncomfortable putting all their eggs in one basket, assuming that if one of a vendor’s technology fails to see a security breach, another one of the same vendor will fail as well.  Another organization may have staffing concerns and feel that having a single suite decreases the chance an issue will fall through the cracks, that it will be missed because the staff does not have time to look at every product every day.

Speaking in general terms, smaller IT organizations tend to gravitate toward unified platforms, as this optimizes the use of their staff where larger organizations tend to choose Best of Breed solutions because consolidating functions onto a single platform can cause bottlenecks, either network or procedural.

The correct solution for your organization depends almost entirely on your organization.  In fact, the answer for your organization may not be one or the other, rather some of both.  To decide what is the best fit for you, ask yourself these questions:

How well staffed is the team that will manage the new solution?

Buying the best product in the world does not help you if you do not have the time or expertise to deploy and maintain it.  Adding a new technology to an already overworked employee will generally be met with a lack of enthusiasm and probably a lack of commitment.

Does anyone on that team have experience with one of the products?

The personnel cost is not only the cost of deploying and managing, but also the cost of learning the solution.  If a member of the team has experience with one of the products, that can remove the hurdle of getting someone trained in a new product.  Staff with expertise in a point solution could put the management overhead of that solution on par with that of the unified platform.

How important are the advanced features to your organization?

Most vendors of a particular type of solution will have 90% or more feature and function parity.  You will need to determine if the point solution has a unique feature that your organization requires.  It is also important to understand how a solution performs a function, as that will indicate how effective it will be in your organization’s environment.

Do you have a tool (or tools) to automate multiple systems and/or aggregate logs from multiple systems?

Automation and SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) tools can be used to increase the integration and interoperability of point solutions and reduce the management overhead.

How much throughput do you require?

Since it is difficult to find appliances that can perform multiple complex functions at full 10 and 40G wire speed, it is often required that the functions be broken out into multiple appliances.

Best of Breed point solutions

Pros:

  • Performs a function very well
  • Has features and functionality that competitors do not have
  • More likely to innovate more quickly

Cons:

  • Tends to be more expensive to buy many individual solutions
  • Requires staff to learn more products to support
  • Interoperability between products is not always optimal

Unified Platform

Pros:

  • Managed from a single user interface
  • Fewer products to learn for an overextended staff
  • Interoperability is very good

Cons:

  • Tends to be less innovative
  • May not have all features others have
  • May not scale well with so many functions

Choosing between solutions is not always a straightforward decision.  It often requires a detailed understanding of the functions required and the environment in which the solution is to be deployed.  It also requires knowledge of the solutions beyond what is documented in marketing materials.

Future Com is uniquely qualified to assist you in determining the correct solution for your organization.  Most of our engineers perform consulting services on the products we sell and therefore have an in-depth practical knowledge of the advantages and disadvantages of the solutions we sell.

 

To find out more, please reach out to us at  FutureComNews@fcltd.net or call 817-510-1126.

 

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