A clear cloud exit strategy is absolutely necessary when moving to the cloud. Ensuring both compliance and business continuity - and avoiding vendor lock-in - are the primary reasons.
Today, large companies can no longer do without the advantages of the cloud. The competitive pressure of digitalization requires migration to the cloud. At the same time, high regulatory demands are being placed on outsourcing - especially in critical industries. And using public cloud is outsourcing!
Placing oneself in the hands of the hyperscalers involves risks. You generally don't have to worry about security: Amazon, Microsft, and Google do a lot to keep their offers safe. Compliance and vendor lock-in is a different matter: It is important to clarify which data and solutions end up with which cloud providers. For this purpose, a clear exit strategy is required in addition to the (multi-)cloud architecture and the cloud sourcing strategy. A high-profile example is that of Dropbox leaving AWS in favor of hosting their workloads themselves.
In certain critical industries, a documented exit strategy is more than just a good idea, it is a regulatory requirement.
The banking sector is one of the most heavily regulated industries. The regulators also deal with the cloud use of companies. The European Banking Authority, for example, requires an exit strategy for outsourced critical or important functions in its EBA Guidelines on outsourcing arrangements under chapter 15. This includes the use of the public cloud.
The German financial supervisory authority BaFin also prescribes the development of an exit strategy in its banking supervisory requirements for IT.
4 aspects of vendor lock-in
Vendor lock-in means not being able to shift workloads from one vendor to another without too much hassle. That it brings great advantages to be able to do this shows the recent downtime at IBM.
Not being able to do so has different possible reasons:
Cost is a major factor in prohibiting migration from one vendor to another. The vendor might charge for exporting data. In addition to that costs will pile up for training staff, consultants, and the lowered productivity. The larger the workload the larger the costs. A good example to look at is Netflix: The streaming service is all in on AWS and won't be able to change that - at least not with reasonable costs.
Contracts can play a big role in vendor lock-in. Some cloud service providers make it hard to decide for a migration to an alternative vendor by implementing a continuously upward pricing model that aims at drawing their customers deeper and deeper into a factual lock-in. At some point, a partial exit may no longer be economical and a complete and difficult withdrawal from the whole contract the only option.
Skills play a big role in migrating and operating workloads. Cloud architects, DevOps teams, and security experts are specialized and it takes time and money to shift that knowledge to newly adopted cloud platforms. That can be a major hurdle when considering leaving a vendor for another. Going multi-cloud from the start provides companies with a larger talent pool and that takes the trouble out of transitioning a little bit.
Technology causes vendor lock-in as well - at least when it comes to proprietary technology vendors use to differentiate. On the one hand, that's great and can offer a competitive edge. On the other hand, it can get companies locked in on this technology and hinder the adoption of the next big thing in cloud technologies.
The 4 key aspects to every cloud exit strategy
So here are 4 aspects you will have to have an eye on when building your cloud exit strategy:
- Most importantly: Take inventory! Knowing your assets is essential. Exit strategies often apply to critical business functions only. So it’s important to know what you have running in which cloud – an up-to-date cloud inventory is of great help.
- Open-source infrastructure is key. Open-source infrastructure components like Kubernetes or OpenShift clusters or open-source databases can make a move between clouds much easier. The more proprietary services you use, the harder it will be to adapt your application to run in a new cloud environment.
- Go multi-cloud from the beginning. Contract negotiations between enterprises and cloud providers can take a while. It’s too late to start the process when it’s actually time to move
- Watch out for organizational lock-in. Even if from a technical perspective your application can easily be moved to a different cloud provider, there’s more to it. If you are running cloud applications at scale, setting up the corresponding cloud environments transferring permissions and configurations comes with massive complexity. Use a centralized governance system like meshcloud to keep your organizational structures independent from specific providers.