Lock-in: It’s a four-letter word for IT decision makers. No one wants to get locked into any solution or vendor, because being beholden to a single option means your data, systems, and apps can be effectively held for ransom. Costs -- whether due to maintenance renewals, upgrades, or subscription rate increases -- are out of your control completely.
But organizations don’t think they can avoid lock-in entirely. They aren’t naïve or idealistic, after all. Generally, organizations aim to ameliorate -- not eliminate -- the situation. Enterprises often employ a two-vendor strategy that offers them leverage. If the primary vendor decides to tighten the thumb screws, they can use the secondary to loosen the screw. It’s nothing new; organizations have been doing it for decades now. Single-source supply chains are a risk in any industry.
Enter cloud. Cloud challenges this traditional strategy by making the threat of migration to a secondary source an unpalatable option. The nature of cloud is such that services and operational processes become entangled with service APIs and dashboards using scripts and systems designed to integrate cloud seamlessly with on-premises solutions. The operational debt incurred rises so quickly it’s difficult to get under control. Moving becomes an expensive and lengthy proposition, reducing its appeal. Addressing this challenge becomes paramount to clearing the way for multi-cloud because multiple clouds exponentially increase associated operational debt.
Partly to blame are incompatible APIs, consoles, and services across providers. These differences give rise to new siloes within IT. More people, processes, and tools are introduced that require training, oversight, and licensing costs. This, in turn, impacts other business concerns. Consistency, it turns out, is challenging for those implementing multi-cloud. Challenges with performance, identity, security, and management were cited by an average of one in four organizations using multi-cloud, according to F5 Networks State of Application Delivery in 2017 report.
Luckily, there are options for organizations to mitigate these risks and manage the operational debt incurred to at least reasonable levels. By standardizing on a toolchain and services in a multi-cloud environment, organizations can minimize the long-term operational and architectural debt. Standardized toolchains encourage cross-cloud architects and engineers by using the same languages and tools across clouds. While the APIs will continue to be unique, using the same scripting language and tools to manage and monitor them can dramatically reduce costs.
Standardizing on a cloud-agnostic service platform also can alleviate costs associated with policy design, deployment, and enforcement across cloud environments. Management and monitoring using the same service platform greatly reduces the issue of mismatched security policies and uncertainty in enforcement. A cloud-agnostic service platform that also operates in the context of the data center -- whether in a cloud, virtualized, container, or traditional infrastructure -- is a boon for organizations who need to move quickly. Being able to reuse policies and services across the entire multi-cloud spectrum reduces friction in the deployment process and offers assurances in consistency of performance and security.
Cloud-agnostic service platforms will be increasingly important to organizations adopting a multi-cloud strategy. Not only can the traditional benefits of standardization be realized when familiar services are deployed across multiple clouds, but applications and the business will benefit from the ability to better realize consistent performance and security in every environment.