How Can CIOs Avoid Getting Locked Into One Vendor’s Cloud?

CIOs need to prepare to switch cloud providers from the start
CIOs need to prepare to switch cloud providers from the start
Image Credit: Damien Pollet

As more and more CIOs move their company’s IT infrastructure into the cloud, the importance of the cloud is becoming more and more important. I’d like to be able to tell you that all of that work that you put into selecting the right cloud provider for your company is a “one and done” type of activity. However, that’s not the case. For a variety of reasons, you may decide later on down the road that you want to switch cloud providers. When this happens, the person with the CIO job needs to make sure that they have the flexibility to do this when the time comes, without significant negative impact to the company.

Design Your Cloud Strategy For Both Flexibility And Portability

One key factor the person in the CIO position has to take care of is keeping your data and applications easier to move. Journeying into the cloud allows a CIO to focus on adopting native cloud solutions This will require the IT team to establish a process to manage and continuously introduce safe, standardized cloud-native products for applications to provision and consume.

Making use of open source standards to write code is one way to prevent vendor lock-in. Depending on the service being used by the company, this approach will help minimize the cost of any refactoring to use a cloud-native service from another supplier where there is like-for-like capability. Maintaining portability can be easier said than done. The more portable you can keep your applications the more agile you will be if it comes to switching providers. Some solutions are easier to containerize than others. Completely portable cloud services are rare, but striving for portability whenever possible should be a primary goal for CIOs.

Create An Architectural Plan To Avoid Lock-In

What CIOs need to understand is that vendor lock-in must be thought about up front, whether we are talking about a cloud instance or not. One thing a company can do to address the lock-in issue is to evaluate a more “uncoupled” architecture. A lot of firms are moving down the abstraction scale and are familiar with containers and virtual machines. There are many good reasons for this approach and one is that it helps minimize the possibility of lock-in.

A good approach to solving this problem is to look at the overall architecture and have a plan in place that can be developed on the initial move to the cloud or at any time if a contract with a cloud provider is already in place. The plan needs to contain details regarding the best approach for minimizing impact to any type of lock-in. Another approach is to add a layer of abstraction to hide the provider, There are some drawbacks to doing this; however, it can be a viable response in order to avoid lock in. Careful planning either up front before the move to the cloud or before an incumbent provider’s service stops working can help lower the lock-in headaches.

Decide To Go The Multi-Cloud Route

CIOs are increasingly creating multi-cloud environments, and that can help maintain the threat of defection if things don’t work out with a particular cloud service provider. Competition among cloud providers is fierce, as costs to provide services and different options become more in line. The consumers of those services are positioned to be able to reap those benefits. Companies should strive to have at least two public cloud platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) providers.

One of the major selling points of cloud service providers is the ease with which new technologies can be evaluated and implemented. This can turn out to be a double-edged sword, however, in the case where these technologies are proprietary. The best solution for avoiding lock-in is using components based on well-known open source technologies, and use of cross-platform tools for managing these components.

What All Of This Means For You

As a CIO it is your job to assume that something will go wrong with a cloud provider and plan for that eventuality even before you sit down to sign the contract. You need to avoid the pitfalls of vendor lock-in by thinking about an exit plan from the first day. What this means is that you need to ensure your design, data, and processes are written in such a way that they can be easily applied to future technology environments.

In order to ensure that your cloud solutions are portable only use niche cloud vendor-specific services where they absolutely provide definite business benefits and justify the ROI [return on investment] within a two- to three-year timeframe. What you are not going to want to do is to use proprietary cloud vendor services just because they are available. Instead, take the time to use industry standard tools to make a migration in the future easier The good news is that you can future-proof your cloud operations by heavily leveraging a microservices architecture, containers, and an application programming interface strategy, thus becoming platform-independent.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
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Question For You: How many cloud service providers do you think one company should use at the same time?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As a CIO you are facing a number of different, difficult challenges. They are all important; however, one may be more important than all of the others: finding and keeping qualified technical people. The problem is that right now in the U.S. there are roughly 500,000 open IT positions. Just to make things even worse, this number is expected to grow at twice the rate as other jobs in the U.S. according to Bureau of Labor Statistics growth projections. What CIOs need to understand is that there is not enough supply to meet an increasing demand for technical talent. How can CIOs deal with this problem?