How CIOs manage cloud lock-in

CIOs and cloud experts reveal that cloud lock-in is a risk, but with a data led architectural approach, they can secure their organisational ability to shift clouds.

Marie Kondo has become a global phenomenon with her books and TV shows on having a tidy life that will then provide you with freedom and inspiration. In the pandemic lockdown many turned to Kondo's lessons to change and tidy their homes, wardrobes and the now regularly used home office, but in doing so these Kondo converts discovered a challenge - complexity. Little in the average home is standardised in shape and size so doesn't stack and organise and although we may not have used the ironing board since mid-March, it's still a tool that will be needed and has to be stored. From global banks, manufacturing, retail and health, CIOs in all sectors are constantly seeking to modernise and tidy up the technology estate. In the last 12 years enterprise IT has become increasingly cloudy and therefore complex. So can a CIO or CTO ‘Marie Kondo' the technology estate? Or have cloud vendors created such tight lock-in that organisations look heavenward and sigh?

Cloud computing got its first foothold into the enterprise as a cost saving and the banking crisis and its following recession in 2007 onwards helped the enterprise cloud take-off. In 2020 a new recession is on the lips of boardroom discussions and once again CIOs and CTOs will be expected to deliver significant operational savings to the business. "Enterprises seem to be discovering that while there are many good reasons for using cloud services, saving money alone may not be the most important or even guaranteed," the 2019 Enterprise Cloud Index report, produced by Vanson Bourne found.

For some businesses, should they survive, more meaningful steps into cloud computing will take place. For those businesses with a strong usage of cloud, simplifying and increasing the utilisation of their cloud estate will be the opportunity they explore. 

A recent study by CIONet in the UK found that its members had four reasons for considering the cost optimisation of their cloud estate: cost efficiencies, utilisation of cloud facilities; cloud contracts and multi-cloud service integration. All opportunities for a CIO to discover that cloud lock-in can prevent the business from realising any of these four opportunities. 

Being locked-in to any technology, contract or location is a business risk. "The question is: how do I make sure that the risk level of lock-in is minimised so that it is acceptable in terms of service and flexibility," says Rob Tribe, Regional SE Director with Nutanix.  Business is built on taking calculated risks and lock-in, of any type, is about taking a bet based on the probabilities available to the business technology leader. The flexibility to scale up or down the compute power that cloud computing offers outweighs the risks of lock-in. 

"Cloud technology abstracts out performance issues that plagued the business from scaling out change in the past," Dominic Maidment, Technology Architect for Total Gas & Power told the Cloud Counsel recently. 

Dave Poulton, CTO with infrastructure and business change consultancy Intergence says lock-in risks can be decreased by having a multi-cloud approach and considering different providers to the giants Amazon AWS, Google and Microsoft Azure. "Alternative providers often have more flexible terms and shorter subscription time frames," he says. 

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