Fear of lock-in dampens cloud adoption

Structure:Data: Put data to work. 60+ big data experts speaking. March 20-21, 2013, New York City. Register now.It’s become a truism to say that data is the new gold — but that doesn’t mean there are easy answers about where to store this gold. For now, many corporate customers will hold back on full cloud computing adoption until they’re convinced that they can move their data off a given cloud as easily as they put it there in the first place. Face it: fear of vendor lock-in is not limited to the on-premises IT world and it’s time enlightened vendors get this problem in hand.

The advent of cloud computing should make it easy to mix and match services from multiple vendors within a cloud and to let data flow in and out of parts of the clouds as needed. But that’s not necessarily the reality now.

Bill Gerhardt, director of Cisco's internet Business Solutions group's service provider practice.
Bill Gerhardt, director of Cisco’s internet Business Solutions group’s service provider practice.

“When you move to cloud, you should be increasing your choices, not decreasing them. You don’t buy three on-premises apps but you can use three services from three vendors in the cloud,” said Robert Jenkins, co-founder and CTO of Cloud Sigma, the Zurich-based cloud provider.

Bill Gerhardt, director of Cisco Systems’ internet solutions group’s service provider practice, agreed. “We need to sort out data portability. Customers ask: ‘If I give you all this data, how do I retrieve that data if I want to go somewhere else? Many cloud companies don’t have a clear exit route.”

Robert Jenkins, CTO of Cloud Sigma.
Robert Jenkins, CTO of Cloud Sigma.

It’s a fact of life: Cloud vendors have a vested interest in making it drop-dead simple and cheap to put your data on their respective clouds. If you don’t believe that just witness the price war that Amazon, Google(s goog) and Microsoft(s msft) are waging on cloud storage. Those vendors obviously hope once your data is in their grasp, they can up-sell you on pricier higher-level services. And, they don’t necessarily see the value in making the return trip so easy and that’s what has people spooked.

“It’s not just privacy and security. It’s also — if I change my mind or it doesn’t work out, how do I move on? This is an issue that’s prevalent in public cloud but in the era of big data it’s becoming quite an acute big problem,” Jenkins said.

“If you put a ton of data up there, the time and expense to manually stream it out can be very painful,” Jenkins added.

It’s fairly straightforward to move things off a bare-bones infrastructure as a platform. But not so easy when higher-end services get layered atop the platform. Even Amazon fans worry that the addition of Amazon’s(s amzn) Simple Workflow Service and other add ons create barriers to exit.

There have been the requisite attempts to build standards to neutralize cloud lock-in but to date not much has happened on that front.

There aren’t easy answers to this problem but Jenkins, Gerhardt and I will discuss it, along with data privacy and other concerns at GigaOM’s upcoming Structure: Data conference in New York March 20-21.

Structure:Data: Put data to work. 60+ big data experts speaking. March 20-21, 2013, New York City. Register now.

Feature photo courtesy of Flickr user Moyan_Brenn