The Cloud trap: Strategies to avoid lock-In


By Dan Kuenzig, Vice President of Global Strategy, Kofax.

Attend any major tech conference and it’s a good bet that someone will be on stage talking about the accelerating rate of change in technology. It’ll most likely be the keynote speaker, listing several examples to help the audience grasp the power of exponential change that we’re experiencing today and will continue to experience moving forward. This isn’t a knock against industry evangelists for continuing to harp on this very important point.

As highlighted in a recent webinar, this idea is worth continuing to share. It’s important because leaders still don’t seem to grasp the future is happening in almost real time. Every industry will be disrupted and what worked for organisations yesterday or today, won’t work at some point in the near future. AI, cloud, frictionless customer experiences, big data, blockchain, IoT, 5G and soon quantum computing will give way to immense disruption.

A significant body of work’s been written around strategies for keeping up with the accelerating rate of change and innovation, but cloud is usually one of the top contenders.

Are speed and agility the only choices?

Industry leaders and customers have touted reduced time-to-value, faster adoption of software, resources on demand, greater agility, ecosystem/pricing facilitating better innovation, reduced costs, and the list goes on and on. I’m not saying these statements aren’t valid—in fact, quite the opposite. However, if industry leaders expect change, why are some industry trends pointing toward corporate cloud lock-in potentially more significant than the mainframe days?

As several industry analysts have pointed out recently, there’s a shift toward SaaS and public cloud. With many of the largest cloud providers only offering true cloud options for deployment. This makes sense from a macro level, SaaS/public cloud typically provide the shortest time to value for cloud offerings to aid in keeping up with accelerating rate of change. Also, leading analysts have found that exiting the cloud is one of the least important factors in cloud buying decisions. But, should this be a higher priority? Are leaders falling into the trap of believing there are only two choices, speed or agility?

Web 3.0 movement impacting some of today’s most successful businesses

At its peak, Blackberry owned over 50 percent of the U.S. market and 20 percent of the global smartphone market, now they own less than 0.1 percent. About 50 percent of the S&P will be replaced over the next 10 years if Innosight’s forecast churn rate holds according to a new study. Even Unicorns like Uber, WeWork and others that just last year many thought would continue meteoric rises, are now showing cracks in their financial models. And based on the recent marketing campaigns from some of the largest and most innovative companies in the world, that live in the future, they too are starting to show their fears of movements like web 3.0 and backlash from privacy abuses. Today’s leaders will quickly become tomorrow’s laggards. We’ve seen examples of this in the past, and it will only happen at a startlingly faster rate moving forward.

There’s more choice than we think

There are other trends though, that point to savvy IT leaders understanding that there aren’t just two options.

For example, the rise of docker containerisation that allows organisations to internalise deployment dependencies and port their application more fluidly across clouds. Portability that can provide agility and leverage in negotiating with cloud providers in the future. Organisations continuing to choose vendors that provide deployment choices with the same code base allowing companies to move more seamlessly across deployment options (i.e. on-premise, private cloud with modern containerization tools like Docker and Kubernetes, true PaaS/SaaS offerings, and business process outsourcing).

We’re also seeing companies looking for platform capabilities to solve problems of today and tomorrow with mature cloud offerings that have functionality that grows with their business. As organisations seek to disrupt, rather than be disrupted themselves, they should consider the short term and long-term impacts of their cloud strategies.

Look to the past to plan for the future

Look for pitfalls from past technology paradigm shifts and seek technology partnerships with vendors that expect change and provide flexible pricing, don’t store data in propriety data formats, and enable deployment with choice. 

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