Whenever I write about Cloud computing I get a bit nostalgic about the pioneers that came before this perfect marketing term was created. For some of us, it’s not hard to remember a time when there was no open source software or hardware and compatibility was a question that had to be checked and double checked before signing on the dotted line. However, the same lock-in that existed yesteryear is alive and well today.

When most people think about cloud computing, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) jumps to the front of the line. The foundation of IaaS is compute, network, and storage but there is much more to the story. Most IaaS providers have evolved to IaaS+ which blurs the line between IaaS and Platform as a Service (PaaS). IaaS+ provides additional capabilities, from content delivery networks to managed databases, that offer valuable solutions which generate long-term revenue for their respective vendors. However, these capabilities also limit portability as they are integrated into a customers’ overall solution.

Hold on, what about containerization? Doesn’t this change the equation? Within itself, containerization provides some degree of portability (see the Open Container Initiative). However, most customers will build applications using a combination of containers and IaaS+ capabilities offered by the vendors. While you can move your containers from IaaS Vendor A to Vendor B, you cannot move or, in some cases, replicate these enhanced capabilities. Of course, even if they did exist, cross-vendor, it would still require some development effort to integrate the new IaaS+ offerings into your original application.

The unintended consequence of this model is customers are making short-term decisions, often project based, that have long-term consequences. The biggest of which is the advent of cloud sprawl, also known as Multi-Cloud Multi-Vender (MCMV) which creates a management and integration complexity that falls squarely on the customer. Oh sure, just like the pioneers of utility computing who faced the challenge of identifying virtual machine sprawl many years before it became a reality, MCMV sprawl sprinkled with vendor lock-in will emerge as the next great challenge for the Enterprise.

Think about your own company, how many IaaS vendors to you use? How many SaaS solutions are deployed? How many different PaaS solutions are you using or considering? How is IT tackling the challenges of managing these clouds? How is security handled? What happens when something goes wrong? Do you get an integrated view of your business?

What is needed is a new approach that transcends both technology and marketing. This new approach focuses on providing overwhelming business value by reducing complexity, increasing agility, and exposing the vendor lock-in chameleon hiding in the cloud.

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