As the cloud grows more prolific, companies are increasingly relying on pre-packaged solutions offered by major public cloud providers like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. Unfortunately, many users are beginning to realize that beneath this veneer of convenience lurks a much less convenient truth.
The reality is, cloud vendor lock-in is a very real issue.
Maybe it’s rising prices, hidden fees, or simply a desire to take back control over your company’s IT infrastructure. Either way, if and when the time comes to consider switching providers, it’s all too common for companies to find themselves stuck. Entangled in a system they can no longer afford, but so entwined that removing themselves feels all but impossible.
In the end, this is what the major cloud providers are relying on.
But what can you do? In a world so reliant on the cloud and cloud-like technologies, how can you escape the inevitability of vendor lock-in?
In this article we’ll explore the concept of cloud vendor lock-in, the ways in which it takes shape, and what you can do to keep your company’s IT budget from getting stuck in a quagmire of rising prices and diminishing returns.
When the time comes to switch providers, it’s all too common for companies to find themselves stuck. This is what the major cloud providers are relying on.
What is Cloud Vendor Lock-In?
At its core, the idea of vendor lock-in is simple.
Every company wants to be their clients’ go-to provider for the services they provide. That’s just common sense. Client loyalty and customer retention is an important part of every successful business model.
Maybe your company provides the best customer service in town? Maybe your pricing blows your competition out of the water? Perhaps you offer premium products unavailable through other providers?
There are a lot of ways for a company to win its clients’ loyalty, but typically, these methods all revolve around trying to keep their customers happy. After all, if your clients are happy with how their money is being spent, then hopefully, the thought of changing providers never occurs to them.
Vendor lock-in though, while similar in its end goals of maintaining customer loyalty, is by its very nature, a bit more nefarious.
True vendor lock-in is the idea that once a customer signs on with a provider, the process required to extricate themselves becomes so complicated that most users would sooner give up and accept it than follow through with dropping the company. Whether it’s exorbitant cancellation fees, intentionally poor user experience design, or simply hardware and software which are incompatible with other, similar solutions, vendor lock-in is intended to trap users in systems which reap greater and greater profits over time.
What does this look like in practical application?
On a simplified level, if you’ve ever tried to cancel a gym membership or switch home internet providers, chances are you’ve seen some of these vendor lock-in techniques firsthand. The truth is, these tactics are a lot more common than you might realize. After all, anyone who’s owned an iPhone or Android can tell you that not every app is compatible across the board.
There’s a reason for that.
These differences are intentional. These companies don’t want you working with their competitors. However, in all the examples listed above, the negative consequences of switching providers is usually a combination of a one-time cost and general inconvenience.
Vendor lock-in is intended to trap users in systems which reap greater and greater profits over time.
But what if your company’s entire infrastructure was on the line? What if the very skeleton of your digital presence might crumble? Would you consider that just an inconvenience? Most companies wouldn’t. Most companies would see such a large-scale shift in infrastructure as a risky decision.
They wouldn’t be wrong for thinking that.
However, that’s exactly what these hyperscale cloud-providers are counting on. They know that once your company’s infrastructure is reliant on them, they can charge you virtually anything and you’ll be forced to accept it. Once you have a working system running your company’s informational affairs, how likely are you to throw that all away? To start over from scratch?
After all, why else would companies like AWS be willing to offer $100,000 worth of credits to new customers just for signing on?
Can Amazon afford it? Of course!
However, at the end of the day, Amazon’s not running a charity. They’re running a business. That means that money has to come from somewhere. It’s a calculated risk. AWS can give away $100,000 worth of credits to new customers because they know they’re going to walk away with a lot more money than they’ve lost.
And where does that money come from?
Users like you. Companies like yours. Solutions which may have started small but have grown with time to encompass true enterprise-level solutions. Packages which at one time probably felt too cheap to be true… Now, suddenly, these same solutions are too expensive to remain realistically viable.
So what can you do?
Avoiding Cloud Vendor Lock-In
Unfortunately, like many things, the most obvious answer here is also the best answer available.
AWS can give away $100,000 worth of credits to new customers because they know they’re going to walk away with a lot more money then they’ve lost.
If you truly want to avoid cloud vendor lock-in, the best way to do so is by avoiding these large, faceless companies altogether. Seek out smaller, more customer-centric providers. Companies who build their clients custom solutions designed around their current and projected needs. Solutions which combine the best parts and pieces of what’s available, rather than pushing a one-size-fits-all mentality.
Companies like Hivelocity.
This of course though, is an oversimplification of a complex issue. Chances are if you’re reading this article, you’re probably already working with one of these hyperscale cloud providers in some capacity. After all, the cloud is so prolific, it’s practically grown synonymous with the internet itself.
So for those users who’ve already signed a contract, for those whom the entrapment process may have already begun, what options are these users left with?
The Advantages of Hybrid and Multi-Cloud
One alternative which has grown popular in recent years, has led to the rise of both hybrid cloud and multi-cloud solutions. These are solutions in which multiple different systems and methods work in unison to form larger, more customized infrastructures. While these systems can be very complex and difficult to manage, with the right tools, these solutions can actually provide easy and effective alternatives to single-provider reliance and the inevitable lock-in that follows.
But, how do they work?
As the names imply, hybrid and multi-cloud solutions are blended solutions that mix the best features of multiple hardware and software components. This means that depending on the specific combination of components used, the solutions themselves may differ greatly. Typically though, companies utilizing hybrid or multi-cloud solutions interface with their systems through one of a variety of third-party orchestration tools. Software like Terraform or Ansible.
As vendor-agnostic infrastructure management solutions, Terraform and Ansible allow users to unify services across multiple providers, controlling, enabling, and disabling features all from within a single location and all utilizing the same, reusable code. This lets users keep the conveniences of the cloud while potentially stripping away the more financially impactful elements.
The best part about hybrid and multi-cloud solutions though, is that they can be adapted from existing single-cloud solutions. In other words, with a little experimentation and intentional planning, it’s possible to surgically remove the negative features of an existing infrastructure solution while still utilizing those features you’ve grown truly reliant on.
Hybrid and multi-cloud solutions are blended solution that mix the best features of multiple hardware and software components.
We discuss a real-world example of this concept in our article, Is Your Cloud Too Expensive?, in our interview with Vince Albanese. Vince, a loyal Hivelocity and AWS customer, saves his company over $15,000 each month by using a unique hybrid cloud solution.
How does he do it?
Well, like many businesses, Vince’s company Certainty had been working with AWS for years. At first, they were very happy with their services. Over time though, as Certainty’s business grew, the costs of data transfer through AWS’s network multiplied to unmanageable levels. Suddenly, just running their business was costing them thousands more than anticipated.
Vince remained flexible though.
With a little trial and error and using a custom setup of Docker containers, Vince now utilizes the superior resources of Hivelocity’s dedicated servers to run his applications locally, all while storing his clients’ data securely within AWS’s network. This hybrid solution makes maintaining compliance standards easy (an advantage of AWS and a crucial factor for Certainty’s business model), while still bringing predictable pricing back to their monthly IT budget.
In other words, just because it might feel impossible or risky to drop a vendor’s services entirely, that doesn’t mean you’re forced to simply accept the deal they offer you either. With a focused response and a willingness to be flexible, it is possible to minimize the negative impacts of vendor lock-in, even after signing the contract.
Hivelocity Hybrid Cloud Solutions
At Hivelocity, we know there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. Like the people that compose them, every organization is different. Different goals; different needs. A company’s digital infrastructure should reflect that. It should remain as flexible and dynamic as the people it supports.
That’s why at Hivelocity, we believe in custom solutions and the superior resources bare metal provides. It’s not that the cloud isn’t convenient. It is. But for those companies which don’t fit perfectly into package A, B, or C, those companies for whom the one-size-fits-all solution simply doesn’t fit, Hivelocity is here to help.
Whether you need a new system built from the ground up, or want to transform your existing cloud infrastructure into something more efficient and less fiscally draining, Hivelocity has the right solution for your business’s needs.
With Terraform integration and our new public RESTful API, you can now deploy our instant dedicated server solutions with the same rapid response time as a new virtual instance through any of the major cloud providers. Featuring on-demand hourly billing, industry-leading support, a world-class network, and international data centers strategically positioned around the globe, Hivelocity is the hosting provider you can rely on.
So, don’t become a victim of cloud vendor-lock in. Let Hivelocity design you a custom, maintainable infrastructure solution that will serve your company’s needs for years to come.
At Hivelocity, we’re not looking to trap our users with vendor lock-in. We don’t need to. Our nearly 20 years of award-winning hosting expertise speak for themselves.
– Sean Kelly