Googlers have been gloating ever since Snap was required to disclose its $2 billion dependence on Google Cloud Platform in its filing to go public. By RBC Capital’s estimates, Google’s cloud business was on a $1 billion run rate in 2016, making Snap arguably GCP’s biggest customer by far, as well as the biggest source of Snap’s financial shortfall, representing roughly 80% of its reported annual losses.
Amazon Web Services doesn’t have the same financial dependence on a single customer, but it still wasn’t about to allow GCP to hog the customer limelight for long. On Wednesday, AWS announced that Live Nation will move all of its global IT infrastructure to the Amazon cloud, adding to a panoply of existing customer case studies.
Most interesting in this customer case study tit-for-tat is that the customers in question are effectively signaling a willingness to completely lock themselves into a given platform. We talk about cloud portability, but these customers don’t appear to be interested–they’re all in.
As I’ve argued, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Just can’t get enough (of cloud lock-in)
Starting with Live Nation, the company touted the benefits of moving its Ticketmaster sites to AWS, saying it “will use AWS Lambda, Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS), Amazon Aurora, and Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) to simplify management of large-scale databases and for storage of logs and static content.” Once in, that data isn’t coming back out. Not without a lot of money.
Snap, for its part, acknowledged its deal with Google has it “buil[ding] our software and computer systems to use computing, storage capabilities, bandwidth, and other services provided by Google,” which, in case you were wondering, “do not have an alternative in the market.”
But, of course there are alternatives! AWS, for one. Or Microsoft Azure. Reality is less kind to this view. As Mesosphere CMO Peter Guagenti has highlighted, “every API at the public cloud providers is proprietary to those systems. So, most of the work a company does to aid with deployment or scaling tends to tie you to each public cloud provider’s platforms.”
Or an enterprise could elect to go through extra motions to clone its cloud infrastructure (as Comcast does) with industry standards like MySQL. Others might opt to focus solely on the basic cloud services to avoid getting locked into vendor-specific services.
But most won’t go these routes because it’s not worth the bother, leaving them free to check out any time they like…but they can never leave.
Let’s call it ‘Master and Servant’
The point of these announcements, however, is to showcase the giddy upside to lock-in. In the Live Nation press release, David Huckabay, CIO of Live Nation, stated: “We look forward to the positive impact that going all-in on the AWS Cloud will have on our IT infrastructure across our key business divisions.”
He’s not bothered by the lack of an exit plan. He’s giddy.
One reason is innovation. As Expedia vice president of technology Subbu Allamaraju has argued, the public cloud providers are ground zero for innovation today. Developers who care about getting stuff done, and getting it done well, have no choice but to build on AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform.
Another is simple expedience. Each CIO has spent decades trying to reinvent the IT wheel, with each building out many of the same functions and sharing little to none with peers. Open source was supposed to remedy this massively inefficient hoarding, but largely hasn’t. The cloud providers, while closed, do offer a way for enterprises to get the best IT infrastructure (and SaaS) at a lower cost than it would take to roll out their own.
Small wonder, then, that Under Armour vice president Jesse Demmel has said, “Going all-in on AWS for Connected Fitness has enabled us to optimize all of our apps.” Rather than futzing down in the weeds of infrastructure, Under Armour can focus its resources on innovating its customer-facing apps.
We should expect to see more of these “all-in with _____ [insert your cloud vendor of choice]” announcements, until they become so routine that no one pays attention anymore. The future looks like cloud lock-in, and enterprises can’t seem to wipe the grins off their faces.