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Navigating cloud vendor lock-in when designing data infrastructure

Navigating cloud vendor lock-in when designing data infrastructure

Robert Balaban
Senior Data Engineer

When designing digital infrastructure to manage data or other essential resources, companies today turn to third-party vendors for cloud resources and managed service offerings. This is a standard and effective way to build a business's capabilities, but it comes with risk — the organization can become overly dependent on service providers or cloud vendors.

This effect is known as lock-in, and it can have serious consequences, especially when a business feels the need to change its infrastructure approach and finds itself trapped by technical dependencies.

Some level of lock-in is likely inevitable due to the central role cloud platforms and managed services play for companies. It's also worth noting that staying with the same vendors isn't wholly negative and there are advantages to relying on a few key technologies. It is important, however, to be aware of the full picture and plan around the risk of excessive lock-in.

What are the effects of cloud vendor lock-in?

Forming a clear-eyed strategy to manage the risk of cloud vendor lock-in at your own organization is easier when you know both the positive impact of vendor loyalty and the downsides that come with excessive lock-in.

The pros of deeply integrating with vendors' tools for cloud infrastructure and managed services include:

While those notable advantages can encourage your business to make heavy use of cloud resources and managed services, it's important to understand the downsides of becoming too locked in with vendors or services.

Notable downsides of vendor and cloud lock-in include:

These potential issues show the importance of thinking about lock-in during the early days of purchasing cloud resources or third-party services. You should inspect the balance between upsides and downsides for any offerings you pursue, and make sure your company is receiving an overall positive experience.

What are some risk factors leading to lock-in?

There are a few key factors to monitor when choosing to work with cloud vendors and add managed services to your company's technology stack. By paying attention to these variables, you can minimize the risk of excessive vendor and service lock-in, giving yourself a simpler path forward.

You should make sure to monitor:

Some of these risk factors are inevitable, and others come with valuable benefits for the company buying in. The point is not to avoid these issues at all costs, but rather to be aware of them and make sure you're comfortable with the amount of vendor lock-in you're incurring.

What are some examples of vendor lock-in's impact?

When businesses end up with an excessive amount of vendor lock-in, the results can bring both short- and long-term difficulties in terms of IT management and overall performance. Avoiding these outcomes is the primary reason for planning around the risk of lock-in.

Examples of these problems include:


How can your business mitigate the risk of vendor lock-in?

Considering the consequences of excessive lock-in, as well as the potential benefits and the inevitability of some level of dependence, you can devise strategies that will help you select a suitable range of services and infrastructure. Best practices include:

How can an expert engagement help with vendor lock-in issues?

Sometimes, the best way to mitigate vendor lock-in is to seek assistance. Expert consultants and third-party contributors can help at a number of points, including when you're designing infrastructure and when you're undergoing a migration to a new service.

Transcenda's experts have worked with companies of all sizes and descriptions and can draw on their industry knowledge to suggest approaches that will minimize unnecessary cloud vendor lock-in and mitigate the related risk.

Contact us to learn how your business can benefit.

Robert Balaban is a Senior Data Engineer at Transcenda. With a strong focus on data pipeline design, optimization and data-driven decision-making, Robert’s focus is transforming raw information into actionable insights.

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