Definition

vendor lock-in

Vendor lock-in is a situation in which a customer using a product or service cannot easily transition to a competitor’s product or service. Vendor lock-in is usually the result of proprietary technologies that are incompatible with those of competitors. However, it can also be caused by inefficient processes or contract constraints, among other things.  

The fear of vendor lock-in is often cited as a major impediment to cloud service adoption. The complexities of cloud service migration mean that many customers stay with a provider that doesn’t meet their needs, just to avoid the cumbersome process. To move data from one provider’s cloud environment to another, for example, it’s often necessary to first move the data back to the customer’s site and then move it to the new provider’s environment. Furthermore, the data may have been altered for compatibility with the original provider’s system so that what is returned to the customer needs to be returned to its former state before it can be moved again.

The best way to avoid vendor lock-in is to choose your service wisely in the first place. Storage expert Arun Taneja offers the following tips for avoiding cloud vendor lock-in:

  • Read the fine print of each provider’s policies, and if necessary, ask them directly how they facilitate moving customer data out of their cloud storage repository.
  • Ask the provider whether they offer data migration tools or services to facilitate the movement of large amounts of data.
  • Choose providers that have pledged to support emerging industry standards, such as the Cloud Data Management Interface (CDMI) standard created by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA).

This was last updated in May 2012
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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