TechRepublic editor Bill Detwiler and ZDNet editor Larry Dignan talked with Dan Patterson about cloud vendor lock-in, and what can go wrong when companies get too cozy with a vendor.

Watch the video above, or read the full transcript:

Patterson: Don’t look now, but most enterprise companies are going all-in with cloud-service providers. Will enterprises repeat the same lock-in mistakes of the past?

Larry, are there lessons to be learned from the past that you see cloud providers and enterprise companies ignoring right now?

Dignan: If you go back to the ’90s late, early 2000s, there were a ton of IT disasters that, in some form or fashion, had something to do with lock-in, which is picking one vendor, and basically betting the ranch on that one partner, thinking they’ll innovate, and they’ll be a partner, you get better discounts, all that good stuff. And then what happened, people got disillusioned, because the vendor got comfortable, which totally makes sense, because you’re locked in.

SEE: Enterprises learning to love cloud lock-in too: Is it different this time? (ZDNet)

Then you take the cloud, the cloud comes along, everyone says, “Oh, well we can do best of breed, we can stitch things together easier because APIs, and all that.” Now, as you see this developing, and the cloud industry maturing a bit more, you’re seeing a lot more announcements about companies that are choosing to go all in. AWS is one of the leaders in this. Google’s getting companies to do basically bet solely on their cloud. IBM has a win here or there, so does Microsoft.

I kind of look at this and just scratch my head a bit, right? Because it sounds like it’s the same sort of story all over again, and yeah, your partners, the people you’re going all-in with are innovative today, but there’s no guarantee they’ll be tomorrow. So when you look at it from an enterprise technology standpoint, yes, it’s easier to buy from one buyer, it may not make the most sense though.

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Patterson: Bill, when you talk to enterprise companies, especially for Tech Pro Research, do they give you an indication of the degree to which they’re buying in with the cloud and the multi-cloud?

Detwiler: Yeah, I mean the cloud is definitely a maturing market. So we do see most people moving, at least, some services, either into a public-, private-, hybrid- or multi-cloud environment these days, and it may be as simple as a cloud-based storage solution that one of their lines of business is using. What’s interesting, to build on what Larry said, is that some of the chief concerns that companies have about moving things to the cloud is that vendor lock-in. If they contract with a vendor that either raises prices, maybe more than they expected, in one or two years, throughout the life of the contract, either they can’t deliver the customer service, the response time, or just the features that they promised during the sales pitch, it can be difficult to exfiltrate their data from that vendor, and then move it to another vendor.

I mean just from my own personal experience here, we’ve had that issue with a couple different storage providers, and so it’s something that when you’re negotiating these contracts, when you’re looking at our SLAs, you really have to make sure that No. 1, they’re gonna meet your requirements. No. 2, you have an out if you need it.

Patterson: Yes, speaking of that out, Larry, when you talk to enterprise companies, what does a migration or even a multi-cloud migration look like? Is this even a tenable solution for most companies?

Dignan: I think it is. But the catch is, it always comes down to money and how easy it is. So, I think from an enterprise perspective, they want one throat to choke ideally, they want to deal with fewer vendors and they want big discounts. So that’s why you’ll see Oracle’s customers moved from their licensed software to their cloud software, and then maybe even their cloud for infrastructure, too, because they get a nice big bundle. So that makes sense, but it can be short sighted.

So it’s a question of, do you want to architect yourself to be multi-cloud? And, you also have to define multi-cloud. Some folks will have a preferred vendor, then they’ll have a bunch of others in the background, so they can sort of swap them out if need to, but I think the reality is implementing cloud isn’t nearly as simply as it used to be. Or isn’t as simple as portrayed.

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Dignan: You’re kinda stuck. No matter how you look at it, so it gets tricky, but I think that’s why the lock-in argument is starting to pick up a bit, because companies are going well, “I’m just gonna bet on AWS or I’m just gonna bet on Microsoft or I’m just gonna bet on whoever because it’s easier for me at that moment and I get a better deal.” So it’s a short term/long term trade-off. We’ll see how it plays out. But you know, part of me being around as long as I have, I kinda just shake my head at the whole thing.

Patterson: Yeah, well there are certainly a ton of lessons to be learned. We have all of it at TechRepublic and ZDNet. Bill, where can people go to learn more, not just the cloud and the multi-cloud, but tactics and techniques for migrations, for staying up-to-date with regulation, and all of the other maintenance things that go along with the cloud?

Detwiler: Yeah, so definitely like you said, check out TechRepublic, check out ZDNet, lots of great content there, and of course our premium site, Tech Pro Research, where you’ll find original research. You’ll find policies, all designed to help you manage the confusing sort-of cloud ecosystems that are out there.