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Some CIOs wary of vendor lock-in with cloud service providers

I’ve had my head in the clouds recently. Or I guess I should say, ‘the cloud.’ I’ve been chatting with enterprise IT leaders about which systems and applications they’ve trusted to the hands of cloud service providers. The list runs the gamut. There are the usual suspects — what one analyst referred to as “low-hanging fruit,” like email that seems easy to let go. But even on that front, one IT manager was content to keep things in-house for the very plain reason that it’s working for them. And that was really the key. Sure, it’s a relatively easy decision to outsource email to the cloud; but it wasn’t something that organization needed to do, so they didn’t do it. That very same organization, however, chose to go with a cloud solution for disaster recovery — not exactly low hanging fruit — but it made good business sense.

Interestingly, in all this talk of movement (or non-movement) to the cloud, security didn’t always dominate the areas of concern. I’m not suggesting that worries over security are a thing of the past, but perhaps the comfort level in that area is growing a bit. Maybe there’s a slight warming to the idea that for cloud service providers, ensuring stringent security is paramount — the now-aging adage that “cloud service providers can do security better than you can.” One CIO I talked to just today definitely subscribes to this philosophy and is grateful for it. Trusting his cloud service provider with security, he said, frees up his limited staff for what he views as more pressing issues like data analysis.

What I did hear more about on the cautionary front was vendor lock-in. To be sure, it’s not a new worry. In fact, it was a topic of discussion a few months back at a meeting of the Mass Technology Leadership Council. I just found it interesting that this, in my admittedly limited sample size, stood out. It makes sense I suppose, that even as CIOs get more comfortable with the idea of going to the cloud, they have an out once they’re there. One CIO I talked to plans for this by including a “how locked in will I be?” section on his vendor scorecards during the contract bidding process. For as carefully as you may plan, not everything that goes to the cloud stays in the cloud. Needs change.

What about you? What have you entrusted to the cloud? Are security concerns holding you back, or do you worry about being stuck once you get there? Perhaps it’s both, maybe it’s something else entirely. I’d like to hear what’s on your mind in the comments.

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