Some thoughts on Cloud vendor selection

I often hear, or read about, customers saying that they have taken a strategic decision to have all cloud offerings from one vendor. This can be Amazon, Google, Microsoft, IBM or other. And that makes me wonder what is the reasoning behind such a strategic decision? What value is given to a company by such a strategic decision?

In my opinion, one of the great benefits of Cloud, no matter what level (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS etc.), is the ability to select the solution best fitted for solving the problem, without regards to what vendor it comes from. And no vendor is best on everything! All vendors have their strengths and weaknesses. So I would say such a decision is a decision working against the positive potential of Cloud. It is actually a decision to create a self-imposed vendor lock-in. And that is usually one of the things to avoid.

So what is it that makes a company make a strategic decision to go for one single vendor?  I don’t know, but I think it is a legacy from the “on-premise days”. 10-15 years ago, prior to the Cloud being a big thing, it was normal to have selected vendors for hardware, databases, network equipment etc. Companies was for instance deciding to buy all servers from IBM, all network components from Cisco and all databases from Oracle. It made the world simpler (at least until the software you needed didn’t support the DB selected some years earlier), and often gave a better price.

When it came to software it was more common to buy a suite solving “everything”. And “everything” was often meaning 80% of what you needed. The rest had to be tweaked. And then the Software Suites also covered a lot of stuff not used by the customer. So the fit between the issue to solve and the actual solution was not always perfect.

And I believe that “legacy-mentality” is still present at many companies.

In a Cloud world, it is more usual to have more pinpointed solutions solving more specific issues, and then put more pinpointed solutions together to create a solution. And this is where the Cloud is great! If vendor 1 have a killer solution for one issue, and vendor 2 have a killer solution for another issue, those two solutions should be purchased, and they should be able to play together.

If the opposite is done, selecting one single vendor, it is actually more or less guaranteed that a company sooner or later would have to choose the second or third best solution instead of the best since they are locked to one vendor. And that vendor don’t have the best solutions for everything.

So in my opinion, a strategic decision regarding selection of Cloud vendors should not be selecting one single vendor. A strategic decision making more sense, would be to have as a requirement that all vendors used, should base their offerings on open standards. In that way the customer can always select the best fitted solution for their issue. And at the same time secure a less cumbersome integration between products, and enable the solutions to be moved to other vendors if needed or wanted. And at the same time not have a vendor lock-in.

Regarding the value of making a one-vendor decision, there might be a better price to get if putting all the eggs in one basket. But at the same time, I believe the value is greater by getting the best solutions put together from those vendors offering the best solutions. After all, Cloud pricing is often based on the usage, and thus not the same up-front investment. And as mentioned, Cloud offerings are often more pinpointed, and thus not with the same functional overhead as traditional software.

The good thing is, that companies is starting to see this positive effect of Cloud, not having to have one vendor, but instead pick and chose from the best solutions and create the best and most value.

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