How Can I Avoid Cloud Vendor Lock-In?

“Despite the lock-in…it’s really not about the money but about the features and the product offering.” So states a blogpost I just read from a company that is dissatisfied with one major cloud vendor and is moving to another.

Yet cloud vendor lock-in — what I like to call Vendor Lock-In 2.0 — seems to me to be a major issue facing our industry.

I say this as I experience my own cloud build-out. I’ll be spending a lot of my time this year implementing a number of cloud-based solutions at a small enterprise near by current base in northern Illinois. We are already hosted by one of the major cloud vendors, and upping the number and size of our instances with this company.

Then, last week, I met with the company’s matriarch, to discuss the company existing, ancient workflow and how we could use PaaS and then other -aaS within the cloud to bring the company from the 19th to the 21st century. This is a family-owned business, started a couple of generations ago. The matriarch alleged she knew very little about technology, and listened to me patiently for a few minutes.

She then pounced: “can I move all this to another vendor if I’m not happy?”

“Well, not really.”

“Why? Is this a technical issue?”

“Yes, sort of.”

“But the vendors could make this easy for me if they wanted to, right? I can plug everything in this building into the same socket. But your cloud vendors won’t let me do this with their cloud services, right?”

And there you have it. We’re moving forward, albeit more slowly and cautiously than I’d like. My clients wasn’t worried about security – she assumes a massive cloud infrastructure vendor will do a better job than we could ever do locally. She wasn’t worried about the price per se – she knows it’s prohibitive to buy our own iron. She wasn’t even worried about downtime – she’ll make that stuff roll downhill to her titular CIO.

But for this company, it is about the money if she has to, in essence, develop everything twice. It’s also about not being trapped, anymore than having a single option for any other part of this business. The local Chinese restaurant is great, but not a place we go to every day.

I’ve written a little bit about the “metadata” problem, and it looks like I should write some more about it.

But as a customer — not a writer — I must ask: “what are the major cloud vendors doing to fix this? Why do you think Vendor Lockin 2.0 is any more appealing than the original version?”

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