A lgate closed and locked - vendor lock in concept
PHOTO: Unsplash/Masaaki Komori

The cloud has provided a host of benefits for companies around the world. These include increased flexibility, accessibility and scalability for their business as well as cost savings for their bottom line. Given the continued dependency on cloud computing and the growth of the sector, it would appear to the casual onlooker that we are spoiled for choice when it comes to cloud service providers.

According to technology analyst Canalys, however, that isn’t exactly the case. The top four cloud providers Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and Alibaba, account for 63% of global cloud infrastructure. AWS has cornered a large part of the market alone, owning 31% of the market in 2020. 

With AWS powering such a large portion of the internet it begs the question if businesses are over-reliant on AWS servers? We spoke to experts in cloud infrastructure to gain a better understanding. 

The Presumed Over-Reliance on AWS

What some see as over-reliance is actually proof of the capabilities of AWS compared to other cloud providers currently. David Johnson, Chief Technology Officer at Munich, Germany-based technology company Mulytic Labs, believes that the market share indicates trust in the reliability of AWS. “I do not think we are overly reliant. The proof is in the pudding with the last major AWS service issue I recall being sometime in 2017,” he said. 

Jeff Flowers, CTO and Co-Founder of hot cloud storage company, Wasabi, mentions that AWS’ experience in the cloud space has seen them become a trusted name. “For years AWS and a few other well-known brands were the only game in town. As a result, IT departments and executives in charge of the budget go with what’s familiar. We used to say you never got fired for choosing IBM — now, you could say the same for AWS. They know Amazon and the various ways that its services improve their lives, and they expect AWS will do the same,” said Flowers. 

It seems that the fact that there are other players in the space actually helps to push AWS to further heights. “AWS is facing competition against forces of multicloud (led by IBM), better hybrid cloud options (Equinix, Rackspace, Digital Realty) and advanced cloud providers (Azure, Alibaba and GCP). AWS knows they have to keep innovating, and buyer power is increasing, so I think we are safe with AWS as it stands,” Johnson added. 

AWS can also draw comparisons to another behemoth in an unrelated industry. “AWS is similar to Starbucks — Starbucks demolished a lot of its competition, but it also educated the mass market on coffee consumption, enabling more entrants and more advanced buyer decision making, ultimately helping the coffee market,” said Johnson. 

Johnson went on to debunk thoughts of AWS vendor lock-in being a problem. “I don’t see vendor lock-in as being a large problem here. Azure is the fastest-growing cloud in market share, Alibaba is gaining steam and GCP is initiating a price war,” he pointed out.

According to Flowers, however, companies still need to be aware of what they’re getting into with AWS, despite its positive reputation. “Unfortunately, many companies signing agreements with AWS quickly discover that instead of experiencing the typical benefits of the cloud such as further convenience, expanded storage capacity and data accessibility, they’re being hit with rigid services and fees. As a result, many companies are finding themselves in unsustainable vendor agreements with AWS,” he remarked.  

Related Article: SaaS vs. Cloud: Comparing Apples and Oranges

Tips for Avoiding Vendor Lock-In

Many companies worry about vendor lock-in, where they are so tied to the existing technology provider that they can’t seek out alternatives. Given the drawbacks being restricted to one vendor or provider, it’s something many companies wish to prevent.

“The easiest way to prevent vendor lock-in is to consult multiple sources before choosing a cloud provider. It’s commonplace to get multiple recommendations when considering a medical procedure or going to multiple dealerships before purchasing a new car, why wouldn’t you do the same with your data and subsequent storage provider?” Flowers suggests. 

Two tips to avoid the vendor lock-in scenario are:

Do Your Due Diligence

Don’t simply take the recommendation from one source. Shop around and see what else is available as another option may provide a better fit for your particular business. 

Consider a Multi-Cloud Strategy

A multi-cloud strategy makes you less dependent on one single cloud provider. It also allows you to create a best-of-breed scenario for your cloud applications.

Heading Towards a Multicloud Future

Multicloud isn’t just a one-off for savvy businesses. According to our experts, it will slowly become the norm. 

“Customers are turning to a hybrid cloud approach for certain workloads and multi-cloud for others. Full AWS cloud-native companies are not going to be the norm due to the inherent constraints of technology and the expanding buying power. Companies will continue to look for technology to be cheaper, faster and more personalized. A single cloud can generally provide two of those three qualities, but not all three. Even AWS cannot bridge that paradox. Therefore, there will always be different options, and customers will always expand their choices,” said Johnson. 

We are now entering a new era of cloud computing, and this will impact choices businesses make today and in the future. “Companies have a much more diverse lineup of options that can cater to their specific needs. As part of this, the channel has come together to develop robust IT service packages that can handle everything from database to data virtualization to file storage. These partnerships are helping to dilute the chances of vendor lock-in and are a great way for companies to discover more relevant and cost-effective storage options for their business,” Flowers concluded.