Should you be worried about cloud lock-in?
Regulatory changes and open-source platforms are addressing long-standing concerns about costs and complexity
Vendor lock-in is a much-discussed concern when it comes to cloud. After operating on-prem for years, with the freedom to change just about any part of their environment, many companies are wary of handing everything over to a single supplier. But those fears might be overblown, especially in a world moving towards multi-cloud and open source.
In the ‘Multi-cloud: are we nearly there yet?’ panel at Computing’s Deskflix conference this week, panellists said that lock-in is an issue for many companies, but predicted that the situation would soon resolve itself.
Although the cloud is inherently flexible, switching providers can be difficult, time-consuming and expensive. There are many considerations to take into account, like data egress charges and interoperability between providers’ cloud apps. However, Amanda Brock, CEO of OpenUK – an organisation dedicated to supporting open-source technologies in the UK – said, “Standards and interoperability are coming. Changing providers looks expensive to companies, but regulators are driving us down the route of having something that isn’t vendor-specific.”
She added, “We’ve already seen it around open banking, [and] we’re definitely going to see it around power, and probably cloud.”
David Keigher, head of sales at Automation Logic, took the view that although interoperability might be in the future, you have to make the best of what you have now. Being scared of lock-in is no reason to avoid making full use of the power of cloud:
“The cloud providers will all seek to provide better value to customers looking for a faster route to business value. The reason for lock-in isn’t just data and egress charges, it’s about using the features that enable you to get faster business value. My advice is to go in wholeheartedly, use every advantage you can and drive faster cycles of value.”
To Sarah Malter, MD of Kapitalise, keeping the future in mind is important when it comes to choosing a cloud provider, helping to avoid the need to switch further down the line:
“A lot of times young businesses will go for cheapest option but not think about long-term growth. Explaining how scalable and secure cloud is is important, but also, of course, looking at the needs of individual clients and explaining the benefits to them. Cloud is so mature that, while there are a lot of rumours out there about it, there’s also a lot of knowledge.”
Lee Virgo, cloud transformation director and head of delivery at Arup, agreed. He pointed out that “understanding what cloud providers can do in terms of native analytics to get value from data” is crucial when it comes to choosing a supplier.
Keigher pointed out that companies have used data for cost-optimisation analytics for years. His hope is that businesses will be able to make valuable decisions about their strategic future in the same way, based on different types of cloud implementation: “I really hope business analytics, by looking at similar businesses using cloud models, will also come about.”
At the end of the panel, delegates shared their thoughts about the future of multi-cloud. Keigher and Brock agreed that open data would become a much bigger part of cloud operations.
“Hard as it is to believe, we’ll see even more open-source, and even more engagement from the cloud companies,” said Brock, “potentially picking up on TCO and cost to move. We’ll also open up the service layer and interoperable tooling.”
Keigher was more conservative, but also committed to the idea of lowering barriers to cloud movement:
“I would love to say [a future trend is] whether hyperscale providers are going to open up and allow data to flow between clouds; it would be a fundamental shift in the way companies operate.”
Virgo and Malter favoured AI & ML implementations as the next big thing. The latter said “Both from a user-focused perspective but also the cloud itself, i.e., making sure you can deploy data centres at the right time and how you can orchestrate what the needs are at any given time.
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