Do not Fear Cloud Lock-In - The Benefits of Standardization

  • July 14, 2020

Lock-in has been a perennial IT concern, so it only makes sense that IT would voice this same worry when it comes to cloud computing. As a result, enterprises are naturally very aware that being dependent on a single cloud vendor could present significant cost, legal, and/or technical issues if they choose to change platforms down the road. However, the benefits of cloud standardization can significantly outweigh the potential downsides of cloud lock-in, especially when an organization has done its homework, selecting the best-fit cloud provider for its needs. 

Best Fit Tool for the Job

If you are driving nails, the best tool for the job is a hammer and if you are whipping cream, the best tool is a mixer. You can certainly pound nails with a rock and you can whip cream with a whisk, but neither will be as effective, or productive, as using a purpose-built tool. Similarly, not every cloud platform is the best fit for every job. 

For example, Mohit Kumar Sharma, one of our cloud consultants, recently compared the provisioning speed of virtual machines (with SSH access ready) on AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. He was able to provision an EC2 instance in AWS in five minutes, a Virtual Machine in Azure in eight minutes, and the same VM in GCP in a maximum of 90 seconds. This provisioning speed and underlying hypervisor technology power the faster deployment of different managed services like EKS, AKS, and GKE. While each platform has its own pros and cons, for this use case, GCP appears to have a better-fit approach for deployment and management of the Kubernetes cluster. Not only for deployments, but GCP also offers fully compliant and stable tools for running Kubernetes clusters.

The Benefits of Standardization

Standardization favors cloud lock-in and the ability to optimize for the cloud platform of your choice, ensuring optimal results. Architecting to a preferred platform benefits organizations in several ways.

  • Achieve greater cost savings. Organizations that standardize on a single cloud platform can realize greater cost savings as they are able to maximize their use of that cloud’s resources. Taking advantage of free services that are ‘baked in’ to the cloud platform — like monitoring and alerting — can help create cost savings. Alternatively, in a multi-cloud environment, enterprises end up paying for additional cross-cloud services which naturally increases service-related costs, not to mention the overhead of managing additional vendors.
  • Avoid efficiency losses from context switching. Having to switch between different cloud contexts leaks productivity across human resources and infrastructure. As teams need to learn how to operate multiple clouds, scaling knowledge becomes more difficult, and expertise wanes. Managing infrastructure in multiple clouds is not trivial! In addition, context switching increases the communication costs of cloud, resulting in lower utilization, according to Context Switching In Clouds: Analysis And Enhancements.
  • Ensure end-to-end visibility. Standardizing on a cloud platform allows an enterprise to go an inch wide and a mile deep. A distinct benefit of this approach is greater visibility of costs, security, compliance, best practices, and more. In turn, greater visibility helps enterprises more effectively manage risk, expenditures, and overall system efficacy. Again, if the visibility of this nature is important to your company, it’s important to choose a cloud platform, like AWS, who has mature tools and services in this area.
  • Gain operational consistency. With a cloud platform of choice, enterprises can ensure consistency, hardening their systems with operational and security best practices, ensuring each pattern is built in a consistent fashion. (For additional reading on how to gain consistency with cloud technologies, Service Catalog: Your Very Own IT Vending Machine).
  • Speed migrations and time to market. By adhering to the standards of a single cloud platform, teams can decrease the time needed to migrate. In addition to not having to split their attention between multiple platforms, teams can spend less time developing migration patterns, and more time migrating applications to the cloud. This extra time can be spent re-platforming or refactoring certain applications to the cloud, further accelerating the cloud-native benefits of the chosen platform.

Of course, the inverse of these benefits is a slow-down of corporate initiatives like digital transformation, at a greater cost. 

Cloud Is Not Commodity

As much as organizations may like to think so, cloud computing is not a commodity. And while virtualized technologies like containers have given organizations portability to move workloads between clouds should they need to switch providers, it’s important to note that different platform providers use different concepts and approaches across their platforms. This differentiation makes it a real challenge to adopt best practice infrastructure configurations across a multi-cloud environment. That said, although many organizations choose to use more than one cloud vendor, we encourage them to always use the best tool for the use case at hand and to invest most of their learning into a primary cloud platform where they can reap the benefits of standardization.

In a traditional data center, enterprises wouldn’t build a fallback database ‘just in case’ or have a replacement ERP at the ready because they were concerned about the risk of vendor lock-in. Similarly, we don’t encourage enterprises to build multi-cloud architectures because they are concerned about a potential switch down the road. Instead, we recommend that they research and assess cloud options thoroughly in order to choose the best platform for their technology, process, and business needs. Selecting the best-fit vendor and standardizing on its platform will help reduce cost and risk while creating a virtuous cycle of greater consistency and efficiency to fuel the success of business imperatives.

Our experienced team can help you assess which cloud platform is the best fit for your needs.

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