5 Tips to Keep from Getting Trapped in the Cloud

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Though the cloud makes it easy, being able to collect a lot of data isn’t really enough. Now enterprise needs to be agile in working with the cloud, too.

The proliferation of data has many companies looking for the best storage options that don’t break the bank while still providing the agility needed for a competitive advantage. The days of big data collection and storage are behind us – today’s enterprises need easy access to their data so they can derive insights and make crucial business decisions at a moment’s notice. Often, the best solution appears to be moving a significant amount of historic and newly created data to the cloud.

Today’s cloud service providers are aiding organizations with these challenges by offering a reliant platform for moving data and business infrastructure to the cloud. With the cloud, there are a lot of opportunities and benefits, from greater flexibility to the ability to scale.

See also: Talend rises to data management challenge of the cloud

However, like any system upgrade, companies must be thoughtful in how they implement their cloud migration strategy. The risk lies in a company’s dependency on one sole provider or signing into partner terms that are unreasonable for your business needs. Businesses risk the danger of vendors exploiting their services by locking in customers and taking advantage of regular performance audits. These audits allow most cloud providers to see how you use their platform so they take maximum advantage to increase revenue.

While cloud lock-in can be difficult to avoid, companies can look to navigate their cloud relationships better by positioning themselves to take advantage of all its benefits and negotiating better terms. When the pricing model increases, which it will, this will be important for making alternative arrangements.

What is required to do that? Below is an overview of top tips organizations can follow in order to avoid cloud lock-in.

1. Refrain from situations where your data freedom is restricted

Many cloud vendors make it very difficult to move your data around freely between key application settings or even legacy systems. This also means that if rates rise, your freedom of movement is restricted even further. Though your data is technically yours, it’s under the control and influence of someone else. In order to avoid this from happening from the start, pay attention to the terms and conditions of your contract before signing up with a cloud provider. You wouldn’t buy a house without reviewing the loan terms, why wouldn’t you use that same thoughtfulness for your businesses’ most precious asset, its data.

Being aware of the technology restrictions that limit your data mobility will benefit your organization greatly. Cloud providers often make it difficult, complex, and expensive to move data from the cloud to on-prem or over to another cloud vendor. Today, the data transfer cost is often priced at approximately eight cents per gigabyte, which on the surface may sound reasonable, but if you do the math it’s about another $40,000 dollars to move a 500-terabyte dataset from these platforms into your data center. Try to avoid costly mistakes such as these.

2. Avoid proprietary data formats

You can increase your chances of preventing clock lock-in by avoiding proprietary data formats. Many cloud vendors will store your data in proprietary formats, meaning if you extract it from the cloud vendor, you often need to go through a difficult transformation process. Most cloud providers make it difficult to move things around and once situated in the cloud it’s very difficult to change. Knowing what format your cloud providers use and what formats you might want to migrate to in the future will be useful information for building out a plan.

3. Pull yourself away from the data gravity trap

Like Newton’s law of gravity, the pull of data towards larger applications and services is strong. This is called data gravity and it’s one of the primary reasons for lock-in. Data gravity can be really sneaky because it starts with just a few casual investments to move something to the cloud. Then, you fast forward six months and all of a sudden, it’s not a couple of files, it’s terabytes of data, and now you want to interoperate with this data and the laws of data gravity start to take effect. Before you know it, you have an issue where you’re building out your data infrastructure on a platform that was selected because it solved one particular problem, perhaps without a big picture plan in mind. And then it can really create limitations on your degree of freedom going forward.

To avoid this, to consider diversifying your use of providers from the start. Many companies are moving to centralized data lakes to store their data, in addition to utilizing “data puddles” which by design are intended to be decentralized.

4. Be wary of vendor proprietary services and APIs

It is far too common for cloud vendors to have their own set of unique services with their own APIs. This limits mobility and makes it difficult to extract artifacts, applications and data from one cloud vendor to the other. Providers often have different types of caching services and masking services, which may not communicate between each other limiting a customer’s mobility.

While you can not avoid all proprietary APIs, you can look for integration tools that support a broad range of formats and data sources. It is worth noting that special attention should also be paid to features that may promise improved performance, but are dependent on vendor-specific services.

5. Don’t be limited by distinctive performance characteristics

The final way to avoid cloud lock-in is by ensuring that you do not have to overly tune your application and execution for that particular vendor’s cloud platform. Once you do this, it becomes extremely hard for you to migrate your data. There are tools that organizations can use to help alleviate this, such as a high-performance analytics database that is designed to run on-premises and on all of the popular cloud providers.

The overall key to harnessing the power of the cloud is being sure you are using an integrated solution that acts as a hub across all your data, enabling you to get value from your data and to access it from a central point without having to physically move it every time. As noted above, none of these problems should prevent you from utilizing cloud services, It’s just making sure that as you start moving to the cloud you are fully aware of what pitfalls can unintentionally lock you in. You should understand what you’re getting into before you lock yourself in, and you should always have an escape plan.

Rohit De Souza

About Rohit De Souza

Rohit De Souza serves as Chief Executive Officer. Rohit brings nearly 25 years of blue chip, strategic technology and change management experience to the role, having driven results at both large enterprise technology companies and smaller, early-stage ventures in a global context. Prior to his appointment at Actian, Rohit held the President and acting CEO position at BeyondCore, where he refocused its go-to-market strategy and drove the acquisition of the company by Salesforce. Prior to BeyondCore, Rohit held multiple leadership positions at HP, including Vice President and General Manager for HP Software – Autonomy / IDOL and prior to that Vice President and General Manager for its Retail Publishing division, where he was responsible for the business’ exponential growth and established HP as a leader in worldwide retail photo and publishing. Rohit has held leadership roles at Siebel, Oracle, Booz Allen & Hamilton and Intel, where in each instance he contributed to the accelerated growth and market success of the firm. Rohit holds dual master’s degrees in engineering from the University of California at Berkeley and an undergraduate degree in engineering from Madras University in India.

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