Does multi-cloud solve for vendor lock-in?

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Digital Transformation Architect in Software, 10,001+ employees
Vendor lock-in has been a sales tool since Unix.  People were out there selling Unix...“it's open. You're not tied to a vendor.” And well, guess what? Lie. So that's been going on forever and sales reps continue to use it as, "Oh, you can avoid vendor lock-in." And I'm like, "Are people really hopping around platforms?" I mean, how many times does somebody go, "Oh, I'm out of here?" It doesn't happen.
CEO in Software, 11 - 50 employees
I don't see vendor lock-in at all as a play in multi-cloud, for the very specific reasons that if you're using multi-cloud, you're using it for different use cases. So what exactly are you creating competition for other than potentially Microsoft coming to you and saying, "I'd really love for you to bring that data-intensive workload that you've got in Google over to me. Can you lower your prices if you do?" I guess that's a possibility, but who's going to go through that work effort to instantiate something big in Google so they can save a few dollars, moving it somewhere else? That's unlikely. So I don't really see that as a play, but I do have a suspicious nature relative to big companies. And the fact that no monopolistic opportunity has ever been bypassed by a company in the history of man. Right now, Silicon Valley works in this utopia.  People think, "Oh, VMware will never hurt me," and actually VMware did hurt people.  It didn't matter how big you were, VMware wouldn't cut you a break on the licensing because they were so popular. Or Amazon, where people think they're the first cloud company, they're like me, they're developers, building something cool for me to use. And Google is the company that does no evil. We know all of that is nonsense. So it is locked-in, but it's not about whether or not it's lock-in, and it's not about whether it's even good. It's about whether you can economically debate or fight that reality. That's the only issue. So, from my perspective, if I could avoid it, I worry about my supply chain. I worry about the sustainability of my business, not just the business that I own now, but every single business I've worked for. That sustainability could be, can I hire smart people and continue to hire them?  Can I get water to my data center? Can I get all the power I need at the price point I want? If my supply chain as a manufacturer was single sourced, that's a huge risk. And most organizations would say that's a no, no. So we accept it as it is under the assumption that there's enough competition in the market, that their prices will remain reasonable and at least competitive between the suppliers, and the best you could likely do is, "Oh, I'll move from Google to Microsoft, and I'll save $20,000 this month. But if I hadn't moved, the discount I get from Google next year would have made up for it."
CIO in Services (non-Government), Self-employed
You're always locked in to the big decisions you make for your organization, to a degree, because you have investments in people, time, and assets that can't just be repeated. Cloud is no different. In fact, I'd hazard a guess you're doing more harm to your ability to reap true business benefit out of your cloud decisions if you don't embrace features perceived as "lock-in". Multi-cloud is really about the best cloud for the best use cases, and not about moving the same use cases around because you believe there's a better deal to be had.
CTO in Software, 11 - 50 employees
What are you solving for? Creating a tenuous relationship with your #cloud providers in the delusional pursuit of avoiding vendor "lock-in" or unlocking innovation and velocity to drive business initiatives forward?
Board Member, Former CIO in Software, 10,001+ employees
I agree with the comments made in this thread.  I'll point out a slight adjustment to the question.  Multi-cloud is unlikely in many cases to enable transparent migration of the same workload across cloud providers.  This could work for some of the most basic workloads (render-farms, monte-carlo simulations), but generally speaking most apps are 99% but not 100% ignorant of the infrastructure they run on - and that 1% can matter a lot.  


Multi-cloud DOES solve for vendor lock-in on new projects.  When your management framework allows you to have some workloads on one cloud provider, and others on a second, when you implement the third - you now have choice.  When your environment is fully designed for a single ecosystem, your growth must go to your existing vendor. 

In today's world of micro-services, this can be hugely important.  I just retained Rackspace as the MSP for Woven - and one of the benefits is that in the future if we build micro-services on Azure (which we may need to), Rackspace has no issue supporting that ecosystem.  If I had gone with a GCP only vendor, it would have prevented us from even considering such a move.  

(full disclosure - I'm on the Rackspace board, but they definitely earned our business - it was not given to them)
Advisor | Investor | Former CIO in Services (non-Government), Self-employed
On one level it seems as if we're back to the DB2 wars for those of you that can remember Oracle vs. Sybase vs. Informix, etc. One argument is to only utilize those features that are common to all. The downside is that you don't get to use all the features such as stored procedures that make a particular solution more compelling.

Perhaps it is Mike that mentioned earlier, but I am of the camp to fully leverage your cloud provider to the max should it enable your business to be more competitive.

So the one caveat; if you have distinct lines of business that generate sufficient revenues (let's call it $1B+), then you have the opportunity to leverage two or more cloud providers to the max without negatively impacting your business. Why? You should have sufficient critical mass in R&D for each distinct LOB to master the capabilities of a specific provider. For example, I believe Adobe leverages AWS and Azure without negatively impacting their competitive advantage.
CIO Strategic Advisor in Services (non-Government), 2 - 10 employees
In a word, no.

One has to be cautious about thinking of multi-cloud to address concerns around vendor lock-in. I shared my thoughts on lock-in and the different perspectives four years ago in this post:

Let's look at the options. If you were to use multi-cloud to address vendor lock-in, you would lose buying power (leverage) and have to architect to support each of the providers infrastructures and architectures. Generally that means working toward a common denominator with works against advantages in using any given provider's higher level functions.

Most are using multi-cloud where there is one dominant public cloud provider and then second (and tertiary) providers are used for specific functions. It keeps buying power (leverage) focused on one provider while also allowing the team to focus on the architecture for one provider (primarily).
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Advisor | Investor | Former CIO in Services (non-Government), Self-employed

As you rightly point out, would you run two ERP systems or two email systems? The short answer is no with the exception of migrations. For example, migrating from Netsuite to SAP is as about as much fun as a root canal.

I'm reminded of a conversation with Meg Whitman many years ago while at eBay; in her view when a company exceeds $1.5B in revenue for distinct product lines, it is possible to treat them as separate entities such as eBay and PayPal. With discrete R&D functions, they have the advantage of picking discrete public cloud providers. Again, Adobe uses AWS for one distinct LOB and Azure for another. Attempting to use multiple cloud providers within a LOB only creates more complexity when it comes to building and operationalizing services.

All said and done, the key thing is to do your homework on which public cloud provider you intend to use because switching costs will be painful. Introducing two or more public cloud providers into your R&D team will also incur hidden costs well beyond whatever rates you've negotiated.

Going up the stack, I prefer to think of Cloud apps more like ecosystems from a business functionality persective and less technology. For example, Salesforce may be your CRM cornerstone for your Sales ecosystem and switching costs later on would be painful. However, training modules from third parties that integrate into Salesforce have less of an impact on the ecosystem.

So in summary, being thoughtful is key as some of these decisions will have a profound impact on your multi-cloud vendor lock-in.

Senior Information Security Manager in Software, 501 - 1,000 employees
To a degree.  There is a downside to having multiple vendors. Take more time to manage both, can lose some discounts, complexity of multiple vendors, etc.


A better way is to create a no lock-in strategy by building an abstraction layer for managing connections into your main cloud provider and then the secondary one(s).

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