Vendor lock-in, also known as proprietary lock-in or customer lock-in, is when a customer becomes dependent on a vendor for products and services. Thus, the customer is unable to use another vendor without substantial switching costs.
The evolving complexity of data center architectures makes migrating from one product to another difficult and painful regardless of the level of “lock-in.” As with applications, the more integrated an infrastructure solution, architecture and business processes, the less likely it is to be replaced.
The expression “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” is commonplace in IT.
I have always touted the anti-vendor lock-in motto. Everything should be Open Source and the End User should have the ability to participate, contribute, consume and modify solutions to fit their specific needs. However is this always the right solution?
Some companies are more limited when it comes to resources. Others are incredibly large and complex making the adoption of Open Source (without support) complicated. Perhaps a customer requires a stable and validated platform to satisfy legal or compliance requirements. If the Vendor they select has a roadmap that matches the companies there might be synergy between the two and thus, Vendor lock-in might be avoided. However, what happens when a Company or Vendor suddenly changes their roadmap?
Most organizations cannot move rapidly between architectures and platform investments (CAPEX) which typically only occur every 3-5 years. If the roadmap deviates there could be problems.
For instance, again let’s assume the customer needs a stable and validated platform to satisfy legal, government or compliance requirements. Would Open Source be a good fit for them or are they better using a Closed Source solution? Do they have the necessary staff to support a truly Open Source solution internally without relying on a Vendor? Would it make sense for them to do this when CAPEX vs OPEXi s compared
The recent trend is for Vendors to develop Open Source solutions; using this as a means to market their Company as “Open” which has become a buzzword. Such terms like Distributed, Cloud, Scale Out, and Pets vs Cattle have also become commonplace in the IT industry.
If a Company or individual makes something Open Source but there is no community adoption or involvement is it really an open Source project? In my opinion, just because I post source code to GitHub doesn’t truthfully translate into a community project. There must be adoption and contribution to add features, fixes, and evolve the solution.
In my experience, the Open Source model works for some and not for others. It all depends on what you are building, who the End User is, regulatory compliance requirements and setting expectations in what you are hoping to achieve. Without setting expectations, milestones and goals it is difficult to guarantee success.
Then comes the other major discussion surrounding Public Cloud and how some also considered it to be the next evolution of Vendor lock-in.
For example, if I deploy my infrastructure in Amazon and then choose to move to Google, Microsoft or Rackspace, is the incompatibility between different Public Clouds then considered lock-in? What about Hybrid Cloud? Where does that fit into this mix?
While there have been some standards put in place such as OVF formats the fact is getting locked into a Public Cloud provider can be just as bad or even worse than being locked into an on-premise architecture or Hybrid Cloud architecture, but it all depends on how the implementation is designed. Moving forward as Public Cloud grows in adoption I think we will see more companies distribute their applications across multiple Public Cloud endpoints and will use common software to manage the various environments. Thus, being a “single pane of glass” view into their infrastructure. Solutions like Cloudforms are trying to help solve these current and frustrating limitations.
Recently, I spoke with someone who mentioned their Company selected OpenStack to prevent Vendor lock-in as it’s truly an Open Source solution. While this is somewhat true, the reality is moving from one OpenStack distribution to another is far from simple. While the API level components and architecture are mostly the same across different distributions the underlying infrastructure can be substantially different. Is that not a type of Vendor lock-in? I believe the term could qualify as “Open Source solution lock-in.”
The next time someone mentions lock-in ask them what they truly mean and what they are honestly afraid of. Is it that they want to participate in the evolution of a solution or product or that they are terrified to admit they have been locked-in to a single Vendor for the foreseeable future?
Is it that they want to participate in the evolution of a solution or product or that they are terrified to admit they have been locked-in to a single Vendor for the foreseeable future?
The future is definitely headed towards Open Source solutions and I think companies such as Red Hat and others will guide the way, providing support and validating these Open Source solutions helping to make them effortless to implement, maintain, and scale.
All one needs to do is look at the largest Software Company in the world, Microsoft, and see how they are aggressively adopting Open Source and Linux. This is a far cry from the Microsoft v1.0 which solely invested in their own Operating System and neglected others such as Linux and Unix.
So, what do you think? Is Vendor lock-in, whether software related, hardware related, Private or Public Cloud, truly a bad thing for companies and End Users or is it a case by case basis?