Welcome to the Hotel California: Fear of Vendor Lock-In

Jesse St. Laurent, VP of Product Strategy, SimpliVity
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Jesse St. Laurent, VP of Product Strategy, SimpliVity

You can check-out anytime you like, but you can never leave. No, this article isn’t about my love for the Eagles, although I have to admit that I nearly wore out my Hotel California tape as a kid and could not wait to attend the Hell Freezes Over Tour when the Eagles came back from their “14 year vacation.” This article is about one of the great fears IT teams have when architecting their company’s IT infrastructure: vendor lock-in.

Vendor lock-in occurs when a customer is dependent on a product or service and not able to easily make a transition to another product or service without substantial switching costs and time investments. Due to the fear of lock-in, customers are understandably wary of any technology or vendor that presents a monumental shift from the status quo.

Today, the IT industry is moving towards the cloud and hyperconverged infrastructure. Both of these technologies represent a disruption to the established norms of traditional IT infrastructure and so it should come as no shock that the term “lock-in” is occasionally attached to these data center solutions. But, what is the reality when it comes to vendor lock-in for cloud and hyperconverged infrastructure?

In the case of cloud, there is an eerie similarity to Hotel California. While it is very easy to get into the cloud, getting out is not so straightforward. Cloud providers have the system of trapping customers in their infrastructure down to a science. Migrating workloads to a cloud implementation is affordable, and though it can be a long process in some cases, it is relatively simple and hassle-free as providers are more than willing to help move the process along. The real trouble comes, however, when attempting to transition away from the cloud and you find your cloud provider isn’t as keen to help you remove workloads as they were when you were moving into the cloud. The migrating of terabytes of data off of the cloud over the WAN can be a time-consuming and performance-intensive process when the provider isn’t willing to lend a hand, leaving many IT pros in fear of lock-in when evaluating cloud.

  ‚ÄčThe concept of cloud is like that of a credit card. Simply swipe and you have the IT infrastructure you need.  

Someone once told me, “Cloud makes it cheap to fail, but expensive to succeed.” In many cases this statement is absolutely true. The concept of cloud is like that of a credit card. Simply swipe and you have the IT infrastructure you need. This works when you realize something isn’t going to work and all you have to do is revert back to square one. But, what happens when an idea does work? When an idea works, you are forced to continue paying the monthly cloud bill, which can lead to costs that are substantially larger than you believed they would be. While embracing failure can be a positive thing, the fear of success is certainly not, and this is the environment many organizations find themselves in when they transition to the cloud.

So while customers can be trapped in the Hotel California that is cloud, does hyperconverged infrastructure provide any protection against vendor lock-in?

Born out of the software-defined movement, hyperconverged infrastructure solutions are designed to be vendor-agnostic. Increased choice of vendor, associated hardware, and hypervisors dramatically reduces the risk of vendor lock-in. Hyperconverged infrastructure vendors even simplify and improve the data migration process for virtualized workloads by delivering VM-centricity and mobility as a key architectural design point to make data as mobile as the virtual machine, making transitioning away from hyperconverged infrastructure simple and quick. This is a night and day difference compared with cloud where data migration can be labor-intensive and expensive. In addition, hyperconverged infrastructure is agile infrastructure so that the dependencies, integration, and specialized training below the hypervisor-level range from minimal to non-existent.

With hyperconverged infrastructure, IT teams avoid becoming prisoners of their own device in Hotel California.

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