Avoiding Vendor Lock-In When Choosing Hyper-converged Solutions

lock-in

Vendor lock-in is a situation where the user of a product or service cannot transition to a competitor’s product or service either in whole or in part. The primary cause of lock-in is usually incompatibility of technologies, although in certain cases there can be contractual constraints.

Lock-in can reduce an organisation’s efficiency and its ability to grow in the most cost-effective way possible.

Let’s say an IT department has equipped itself with hardware from vendor A but further along when they wish to add capacity or upgrade they decide that hardware from vendor B is the best solution. The problem is they find that vendor A’s hardware is incompatible with vendor B’s, so they have to either go with vendor A or ‘rip and replace’ their whole IT infrastructure at great expense.

Virtual computing not always immune to lock-in

The idea that the trend to move away from purely hardware-based IT to cloud computing and virtualisation might eliminate vendor lock-in is unfortunately not always the case.

Some cloud users have found it very disruptive when trying to move from one cloud provider to the other. The complex nature of some cloud migrations has caused some users to stay with their current provider even though they may no longer be meeting their requirements.

In certain cases, data has to be converted back from the original provider’s format then re-converted to the new one. This can entail a complicated move of data back to the original customer to be reformatted before being moved to the new provider’s servers.

Hyper-converged lock-in

The general move to hyper-convergence – a software-defined IT environment where storage, networking and virtualisation are software controlled – isn’t immune from vendor lock-in even though the technology seemed to promise full flexibility originally.

This is unfortunate as flexibility and autonomy are two basic reasons why hyper-convergence is a consideration for more and more organisations. A fast-growing entrepreneurial start-up doesn’t want to be hamstrung by inflexibility caused by vendor lock-in.

In some cases, vendor’s hyper-convergence solutions lock customers in at both the hardware and software level. There have been examples of providers developing their own hypervisor software that is only compatible with theirs or their preferred partner’s software or hardware.

This clearly prevents flexibility of choice – and indeed raises the question of why an organisation should be restricted to using a restricted use hypervisor rather than the industry-leading VMware vSphere or maybe Microsoft’s Hyper-V.

How to avoid lock-in

The simple answer is to choose your vendors carefully. Hypervisors such as vSphere and Hyper-V are market leaders and vendors of certain other software such as virtual storage SANs (Storage Area Networks) such as StorMagic with their SvSAN solution provide full compatibility with both vSphere and Hyper-V.

Also, look for hardware compatibility with commodity X86 servers or a ‘hardware agnostic’ or ‘hardware independent’ virtual storage SAN.

It’s important to choose wisely as flexibility is a key benefit of software-defined IT and hyper-convergence in particular.

About Mohit Tater

Mohit is the co-founder and editor of Entrepreneurship Life, a place where entrepreneurs, start-ups, and business owners can find wide ranging information, advice, resources, and tools for starting, running, and growing their businesses.

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