One of the most appealing aspects of cloud computing is the promise — in theory at least — that if you're not happy with a vendor, you can migrate to another with much less pain than with traditional enterprise solution providers. Today, CIOs have an almost bewildering choice of cloud applications and cloud platforms.
This multi-cloud reality opens up greater potential for leveraging on-premises enterprise software with cloud resources. Gone are the days of waiting for a behemoth ERP vendor to build out a new module or capability — you can't wait to innovate. The cloud enables choice and agility, giving CIOs and their business partners the ability to take advantage of innovative applications and technologies that provide competitive advantage with very little friction to get started and accelerate time to value.
According to RightScale's 2017 State of the Cloud survey, the average enterprise is using or experimenting with applications in 3.6 public clouds and 4.4 private clouds. The survey indicates that 79% of workloads run in the cloud, almost evenly split between public and private cloud environments. But, as RightScale points out, those private cloud applications may include workloads running in existing virtualized environments or bare-metal environments that have been "cloudified."
It's also likely that cloud has been deployed somewhat opportunistically — maybe even haphazardly — to deal with particular needs. Or even as undercover "Shadow IT" projects outside the purview of central IT. Many would argue that Shadow IT simply reflects business needs to move faster than IT is willing or capable of doing.
But while there are options galore in terms for finding the right applications to meet virtually any need, the major cloud platform providers would just as soon like to lock you into long-term commitments.
Amazon Web Services (AWS), the largest public cloud vendor, is aiming to lock in its partners who deal directly with end-customers. At AWS re:Invent last November, AWS CEO Andy Jassy reportedly urged partners to stop hedging and go all-in with AWS. "The reality is, we are going to direct business to our partners who are committed and who really understand the platform because our customers want partners who understand the details of our platform," Jassy said, according to a ZDNet report.
Oracle is even more brazen, according to Jason Bloomberg, president of industry analyst firm Intellyx, who offers a stinging indictment in Forbes that the company is apparently engineering underlying hardware to optimize for its software; is "tricking customers into using features they haven't licensed," and then using license audits to buy cloud options; and raising rates for using its software on AWS or Microsoft Azure. Hardly surprising that they'd rather their customers run Oracle applications on Oracle cloud, where there is greater likelihood of maximizing profits over the long term.
Staving off dependency
There's a natural inclination in IT to fear dependence on any one vendor. And there's long-standing resistance to the idea that one vendor can serve all needs. "CIOs' notion of a single cloud platform that is low-cost, provides perfect scalability and security for every application and does so with virtually no vendor lock-in is considered a holy grail for a reason: You just can't find it," writes CIO.com Senior Writer Clint Boulton.
Determining what clouds to use and when to use them is essential for maximizing return on investment in current and future infrastructure and software.
Dominant vendors will never stop trying to come up with strategies to lock in customers. So CIOs must continue to come up with new ways of thinking to maintain independence.
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Pete Bartolik, Guest Blogger
Mr. Bartolik has researched and written about technology and vertical market segments for many years and has worked on many market research, writing and social media projects. He was news editor of the IT management publication, Computerworld and a reporter for a daily newspaper.