In this article we are going to explore Cloud lock-in in detail. Should you be worried? How can you mitigate the risk?
When you think of Cloud computing you likely think of Azure, AWS, and Google Cloud. Each of these businesses has developed highly respected Cloud platforms, but the question that everyone always asks is should you be worried about Cloud lock-in?
Firstly let’s cover the basics of what Cloud lock-in is and how it happens. Cloud lock-in is where a business opts to consume products or services that are designed specifically for a Cloud provider’s platform. The advantages of these systems are normally lower costs, better performance, and easier management. The problem is that Cloud specific products and services are often difficult to transfer to other providers.
Companies like VMware have attempted to tackle this problem by building a platform that adds another layer on top of Cloud providers infrastructure that enables businesses to move services easily between Clouds. Whilst this addresses cloud/vendor lock-in, it introduces additional costs and complexity. Adding cost and complexity outweighs the advantages and restricts a business’s ability to use Cloud-native tooling. Let’s be honest AWS, Azure and GCP have invested heavily in simplifying infrastructure management, so it would be foolish not to use these tools to your advantage.
Whats the Solution?
What is the solution to the problem? – How can you leverage the Cloud providers native tooling without taking on unnecessary lock-in risk? Well, there are a number of strategies that can be implemented to mitigate the risk and maintain the flexibility to take advantage of the latest cloud provider offers as and when they happen (Cost saving being the largest factor). In this part of the Cloud lock-in article, we are going to explore these solutions:
Can Infrastructure as code tackle Cloud Lock-in?
Infrastructure as code enables businesses to define how their infrastructure estate should operate. Tools like Terraform enable multi-Cloud deployments, this means that businesses can design their architecture, define the infrastructure as code and enable it to be deployed to multiple Clouds. There are a number of great advantages to infrastructure as code which can be explored here.
How does this help with Cloud lock-in? In short using code to define infrastructure means that to deploy the same solution to another Cloud provider will need a small amount of the code changed but the key architectural designs can be transitioned with minimal effort (this is much easier than building everything again from scratch). As the infrastructure is defined as code, one can create a carbon copy of the infrastructure in one cloud and deploy it to another with the same configuration.
Moreover using infrastructure as code with a continuous integration platform for example GitOps enables businesses to create automated deployments of applications. If a business creates infrastructure as code, using an automated deployment flow the infrastructure can be deployed between multiple clouds in an automated fashion. Check out GitOps for more details on this. Recently Next2IT has helped businesses define deployment lifecycles that take into consideration Cloud pricing. This allows the code to calculate the most cost-effective way to deploy the client’s infrastructure resulting in large cost savings!
Building Mutli-Cloud infrastructure
Advances in the way we design infrastructure with the Cloud in mind have created a number of new platforms that enable simplified deployment of solutions. A great example is the movements towards micro-services. Micro-services have brought fantastic stacks like Kubernetes to fruition. What’s more all the top Cloud providers have implemented platform services like Kubernetes.
Kubernetes enables businesses to deploy their micro-service-based applications with ease to any Cloud. This is achieved by using a unified backend stack, that runs containers. Kubernetes is the orchestration platform that sits over the top of the raw infrastructure to deploy and manage the containers. The advantage here is that businesses can develop their required containers and deploy them to any Cloud that supports Kubernetes.
This powerful solution can be enriched further with solutions like Flux. Flux is a solution a bit like Terraform but for containers. It enables businesses to define their Kubernetes environments in code and automate the deployment process. With Flux all of your containers, configuration, and cluster manifests reside in a Github repository. When Flux detects a change, Flux updates the cluster to the new configuration defined by the manifests stored in the GitHub repository. What’s more, Flux can be connected to multiple clusters enabling multiple cloud deployments.
This is just one example of how new tools and platforms can enable unified infrastructure deployments across multiple clouds with a single transferable configuration definition.
Partnering with a Cloud Management Provider
Let’s face it technology is always evolving and what was good for yesterday might not be great for today. Using a Cloud management provider enables you to offload the complexity of Cloud management. Next2IT, for instance, provides a Cloud management service that enables businesses to fix the price of their Cloud consumption, Next2IT is then responsible for moving your Cloud services around to the best providers ensuring an always-on service.
What’s more, working with a Cloud management provider will enable your business to exploit the latest technology without the need to up-skill teams to support it. Businesses often find that this winning combination enables them to unlock previously hidden advantages!
How much should you worry about Cloud lock-in?
Most businesses are very familiar with vendor lock-in, it’s something that happens across the board. In the case of Cloud lock-in though businesses typically only identify the issue too late. Remember that most Cloud providers use a model of ingesting data into the Cloud being free or extremely low cost vs exporting data being super costly. This is by design, however, as discussed in this article if businesses design their Cloud estates with the understanding they will likely need to transition services to other Cloud providers in the future then solutions can be architected with this harsh reality in mind.
Cloud lock-in is certainly something businesses should be thinking about. Planning now will result in large savings financially in the future. Cloud lock-in is also something that is only going to become more of the problem as more businesses migrate to the Cloud and providers create more ingenious solutions that introduce further complexity when it comes to moving away in the future. That being said businesses should be building a robust IT strategy that exploits the benefits of a multi-Cloud. As outlined in this article the risks associated with Cloud lock-in can be mitigated with some careful planning.