Vendor Lock-In: A Concern for Cloud Computing Users

A couple weeks ago I spoke at a users group about cloud computing. Primarily the discussion focused on IaaS (Amazon Web Services, GoGrid, etc) and PaaS (Windows Azure, Google App Engine, etc). I have spoken on this subject many times and it is interesting how every crowd focuses on a different issue. One group was very concerned about performance (eg getting what they paid for). Another was very concerned about security. Data storage, learning curves, and data recovery have been some of the other themes.

On this night though one of the major themes was application portability or vendor lock-in. One of the big concerns of cloud computing is what will I do if my cloud vendor announces that they are closing their doors? If anyone has ever been involved with a colo going out of business or even moving physical locations they realize how much work that entails. But what if you had developed an application on a platform that was only provided by one vendor and that vendor was going away?

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   Reducing Costs with Open Network Systems
   for Internet Infrastructure

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First of all I think it’s important to remember that migrating to a new platform takes time and effort regardless of it being in the cloud or not. Even moving from one physical server to another with an identical OS and application stack will take some effort and planning. The notion of moving from one cloud vendor to another with zero effort is a misnomer.

But what if you had developed on top of Google App Engine, Windows Azure, or were using services of Amazon Web Services such as S3 or SQS? If one of these services go away there is no where to port your code to, you will have to modify at least some code. Same for the other services and most (if not all) other cloud platforms.

In a series of future blog posts I will discuss the challenges around vendor lock-in that cloud computing presents, along with a look at the opportunities for the companies and platforms that play their cards right. But first I want to poll the readers:

Is lack of or limited application portability a barrier to you deploying an application to the cloud?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Steve Evans

About Steve Evans

Steve Evans is the president of Serk, an IT infrastructure consulting company. With 10 years of enterprise IT experience he helps companies both large and small streamline their IT operations. Steve also has a background as a developer. He bridges the world between Developers and IT Pros and frequently speaks at Code Camps and User Groups. He teaches developers what they need to know about operating systems, directories, servers, and more. When not doing something related to work he has a wife that is a full time student, two young daughters, and a plethora of pets. All the information you need to interact with Steve online can be found at

One Response to Vendor Lock-In: A Concern for Cloud Computing Users

  1. Hawk
    Rob September 28, 2009 at 1:56 pm #

    We just went through this after an exchange server melted down. It was urgent and we couldn’t find many options. We decided a few years back we would not be adding any more IT for the dozen or so folks we had, and we used a regional guy who has handled our needs for years. It was seamless and he was able to resurrect the old server info and have us up and running in a couple of days. I don’t think I’d trust many with that job and we were over our heads.

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