Is Vendor Lock-In Actually A Bad Thing?

17 March 2020 | Posted by Cass Information Systems, Inc.

The leading public cloud providers are investing billions of dollars to improve not just their IaaS capabilities, but their PaaS offerings too.  But to take advantage of these capabilities, a DevOps team must be willing to adopt platform-specific methods and tools.

New PaaS resources make it easier and faster to bring new products from idea, to production, to scale, than ever before. But so many businesses are getting hung up on the question of vendor lock-in to take advantage of the tools cloud providers offer.

Why Do People Worry About Vendor Lock-In?

According to a 2019 survey from Fujitsu, nearly 80% of respondents worry about the risk of cloud vendor lock-in. Some people think of cloud service providers (CSPs) like telecoms companies. The worry is that they’ll be locked into a contract and forced to pay more while service declines.

Another concern is that they’ll have all their eggs in one basket. When considered like an investment portfolio, this is a bad move. If the CSP goes under, you lose everything.

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Some of these concerns are voiced by people with a solution that needs a problem. Unlike telecoms companies, you can adopt the cloud on your terms. AWS, Azure, and GCP are designed so you only use the services when you see value, and you’re free to use the technology you choose.

Pay-as-you-go pricing models give you with the ability to shut down your environment, export your data and virtual machines (VMs), and walk away without ever incurring another expense. You can even choose to be billed monthly without any long-term commitments or contracts.

The big three CSPs are run by three of the biggest tech companies in history and manage the clouds of enterprises all over the world. While certainly not too big to fail, these CSPs are robust enough, and their services profitable enough, that it’s naïve to avoid using them on the unlikely event they go under tomorrow.

Rather than worrying about vendor lock-in, enterprises should be concerned about whether the structure of their cloud environment is fit for their needs.

Cloud Flexibility Vs. Cloud Utility

If you want to make the most of the IaaS and PaaS features of the cloud, you should commit hard to one CSP for your applications. This will allow you to code in a way that uses the whole buffalo – allowing you to use all the PaaS features unique to a CSP and offering greater return on your cloud investment.

For businesses that insist on preventing vendor lock-in, application architectures are going to be limited to the simplest level of IaaS resources from all cloud providers - that's the only way to preserve flexibility to migrate an application from one CSP to another. 

Otherwise, if you've written an application based on unique vendor capabilities and you want to migrate vendors, you'll have re-create elements of the application at your own cost. So you face a decision - scale back your application to compensate, or take the hit and increase the time and cost of your application?

The decision you choose often has the same result: You open the door for your competitors to get to market faster and with more powerful offerings, better supported by their respective platforms.

Using the cloud effectively means identifying the CSP resources that are best for your unique business needs and building applications that leverage those capabilities.

So, you might locate your big data analysis in GCP, while leveraging AWS' superior AI tools to reinvent your customer-facing experience.

Worrying About Lock-In Only Hurts You

While “Lift-n-Shift” has been the strategy to get businesses into the public cloud, the companies who are being truly successful at driving innovation at pace and scale are those that embrace platform providers and build specifically to those unique capabilities.

Our advice is to go deep and win through innovation. Then, negotiate contracts based on the platform elements that you care most about.

And that's where Cass comes in.

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Topics: Cloud Management Services

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