Nowadays, companies are becoming more and more dependent on technology, migrating their systems to the cloud to obtain all the advantages of cloud computing services, such as increased mobility, cost reduction, or increased agility and efficiency. In this digital transformation and leap to the cloud, cloud service providers are a fundamental factor. They provide the infrastructure and conditions necessary for any business to work with outsourced processes and data.
Despite the many advantages of cloud computing, it also has some drawbacks, such as the high dependence of companies on cloud service providers. If it is necessary to change cloud service providers at any given time and for any reason, this transition can be very complicated or require a high economic cost. This Vendor lock-in should be taken into account when choosing a cloud provider and starting migration of systems and information to the cloud to avoid a complex situation in the future if the need to change provider arises.
What Vendor lock-in Means in Cloud Computing
Vendor lock-in or vendor lock-in in cloud computing is a complex and dangerous situation that occurs when a customer cannot change service providers. The main reasons why it is not possible to switch between providers or why such a change involves high economic costs are as follows:
- Incompatibility between technologies.
- Contractual restrictions
- Inefficient processes.
Many customers are “trapped” in a service that does not meet their needs due to the complexity or impossibility of migrating cloud services to another provider. Technological captivity creates customer dependency on vendor services, such as applications, hardware, and customized solutions.
Vendor lock-in is a situation that occurs in many areas, as in the case of cell phones that only worked with a single operator or some brands of printers that can only be used with cartridges manufactured by the brand itself.
What is the Risk of Vendor lock-in in Cloud Computing?
Relying on a single service provider is dangerous because the ability to respond to failures or critical situations would limit the possibilities of action, leaving everything in the hands of that provider. If the prospect of migrating to another cloud provider is blocked, the company will find itself in a complex situation with no maneuvering capacity to decide what to do.
An example of this type of risk can be seen in application development, where migration between service providers such as Amazon EC2 and Microsoft Azure cannot be done effectively.
Interoperability between providers and portability are essential qualities that affect the cloud and are vital to avoid the risk of vendor lock-in.
The lack of standards regarding storage and work in the cloud means that technologies between various cloud service providers are incompatible or present serious problems when migrating between them. Cloud-specific measures could mitigate vendor lock-in and achieve portability and interoperability, but the reality is far from this situation.
How to Avoid Vendor lock-in
The main ways to avoid vendor lock-in are:
- Review the fine print of the cloud service provider’s policies to find out the conditions for moving data to other external services.
- Find out if the cloud provider offers data migration tools or services that make it possible to move large amounts of data.
- Choose a cloud provider committed to emerging standards such as CDMI (Cloud Data Management Interface).
- Mount services on Docker containers to ensure easy migration to other cloud providers.
What is Docker, and How Does It Avoid Technological Captivity?
Containers are a way to package code and all those resources and dependencies necessary for an application or software to run correctly, quickly, and reliably, regardless of the computing environment. Docker is an environment that allows working and deploying applications inside software containers.
One of the main features of Docker containers is their portability. Portability ensures that an application works independently of the environment where it runs and the service it hosts, making it the ideal solution to avoid cloud provider lock-in. By working with Docker containers, a company can move the container to other locations, such as another cloud provider, without worrying about it not working or losing all the work done.
Rescuing the previous example between AWS and Azure and the difficulty of migrating between both platforms, if working with containers, the only work to be done is to move the containers between both providers, as there is no need to reconfigure what is inside them.
In the DevOps methodology, where process automation can offer customers more efficient and faster services, containers facilitate communication and collaborative work between team members. Companies working under the DevOps philosophy can avoid this dependency on the service provider or vendor lock-in since their applications and systems run under these containers independent of the IT environment or service they are hosted.
There is a lot of concern in companies about this problem of dependence on the provider since the migration to the cloud requires a significant investment and effort, which can be lost if it is necessary to migrate to a new platform for any reason.
The use of containers that allow the isolation of applications and systems from the environment is presented as the best alternative to eliminate the risk or threat of technological captivity.
Several measures can be taken to avoid a vendor lock-in situation and the company being captive to a single cloud provider. However, the best way to prevent it is to resort to containers such as Docker.