I finally did it…I broke my longstanding relationship with Bose sound systems and bought my first Sonos equipment…starting out with the Bridge and one Play 3 speaker. I brought it home and had it running in ten minutes. No wires, and even though I had a manual, I didn’t need it. Like my all of my Apple gear, it just works.
Those Bose things that I own? Well, they have proprietary cables, proprietary plugs, proprietary everything. I can’t use pieces of the system I’ve already purchased without buying more from the same vendor. That means the investment I’ve already made is only useable if I continue to invest more in the same company. Sound familiar?
Vendor lock-in, which is exactly what I’m describing with Bose, is a significant problem across the technology landscape. For many healthcare companies, it’s a nightmare they live with every day thanks to generations of software built for an insular industry. But it doesn’t exist only in isolated cases or in industries playing catch up.
Cloud computing has serious problems as well with vendor lock-in. Before cloud came on the scene, technologists were hard at work enabling solutions on common standards and protocols like J2EE. The idea was to build platforms that could be swapped out and replaced, regardless of vendor, by any software following the same standards. It was key to the maturity of software platform engineering.
But cloud isn’t as mature as the software we’ve grown used to. The standards aren’t fully formed and many of the companies offer platforms that will be costly to move away from. Whether that’s by design or a fortuitous accident (for them) remains to be seen, but cloud standards for hosting, connection and administration are generally proprietary to the vendor. That leaves anyone using a cloud platform vulnerable to price increases, poor customer service, and a future that may not be optimal for the customer.
Avoiding lock-in means having a way to access your own data and to be free to migrate off a cloud platform whenever needed. This requires a level of integration sophistication that is rare in cloud computing but likely to be the next wave of cloud offering. Ultimately, customers must own their data and their business processes, meaning they should be able to move their work to any cloud provider at any time…also known as portability. Before you choose a platform, be sure to have a way to avoid vendor lock-in. There are a limited number of companies like Salesforce that dominate cloud computing, so be careful not to automatically go with the biggest and most popular, but make your choices instead on what allows flexibility and portability.