We have finally come to the crossroads where lock-in has been presented as the evil it is.

By Rowen Grierson, regional sales director: sub-Saharan Africa at Nutanix.

Over the last 10 months, organisations around the world were faced with an immediate and sudden need to adapt their IT systems or be left behind. People needed to work from home, the cloud became the new infrastructure, digital and compute from everywhere the new norm.

But what held many back? Vendor and license lock-in. CIOs have been faced with an unprecedented financial and flexibility quandary because lock-in has dictated that where their workloads are, is where their workloads will stay, without the flexibility to move these where they were best suited. The same can be said for legacy apps which are themselves a huge lock-in for organisations because they are a core of their business and some of these apps can’t just be lifted and shifted into this new way of working.

Now also imagine being the executive of a business that made the decision just before the pandemic to invest in new infrastructure while getting locked in and having to pay three to five years upfront. Having to invest so many years’ worth of capital upfront could have been the difference between staying afloat or going under.

Unlock the lock-in

Now that business has been catapulted into this new multi-cloud world; they need a way to unlock the lock-in, which is really where a tooling or management cluster comes in to play. A tooling layer that sits above the clouds that have been invested in will allow IT to start moving their workloads to where they need to be as well as where it makes sense for them to reside. Naturally, this isn’t going to nullify all aspects of lock-in, but it will help alleviate some of it.

This is particularly effective for the multi-cloud space we find ourselves in. It is not just a hybrid cloud; it is a mesh of clouds where workloads are now segmented across different cloud providers, and SaaS-based applications are also thrown into the mix.

Goodbye five-year model

But lock-in is not just being unable to move your workloads. It is also being tied to a five-year model or a protracted license agreement that is holding your balance sheet to ransom. The world has changed, the pandemic speeded up this change, and IT needs to adapt now. The whole notion of being tied down to a five-year contract when things can change tomorrow must stop – it needs to be replaced by the agility of consumption-based modelling as has been brought to the fore by the cloud.

We have customers who have found themselves bleeding because they are locked into a platform that means there is no room for them to move financially – but the platform is no longer fit for purpose because the business model has changed. Unfortunately, they are now going to bleed for a further three years because they can’t afford to get themselves out of the situation they are in, and they don’t have the capital to invest the money to get themselves off of a platform that is now redundant.

It is time that CIOs and IT decision-makers keep vendors honest, and this means making vendors shift their models, irrespective if it is software, hardware or compute, into consumption or subscription-based ones.

Cloud becomes more relevant

It is this same lock-in that has made the cloud so attractive and is in part to blame for customers being burnt by the costs of the cloud. The reality is that at least with the cloud, you can scale into the cloud fairly quickly and while moving workloads out is complex in some instances; it can still be done. Your workloads aren’t being held hostage by the cloud provider.

The reason lock-in exists is that vendors are pushing for renewals. Yes, we are a vendor, and renewals are essential to us too. Still, it is our job to ensure that the technologies we provide are so critical to your business that you will want to renew or continue using the service, depending on if it’s a one-year or pure-play month-by-month subscription model. When this shift is made as an industry, we move the customer to the heart of the conversation and embrace a mindset framed by continuous innovation – because we need our customers to be deriving the most value from our system – without needing to change.

You don’t have to spend the money

To customers plagued by lock-in, there is a technology and a commercial aspect to the discussion. You can buy technology for five years just because you must spend the money, or you can start to look at your IT investments as more fluid and adaptable. It is far easier to tell your CFO you need to shift or change something if you are in a subscription or one-year contract. Than it is to try and beg for pocket change when you are tied into another two-years of a commercial agreement that merely isn’t matching your technology need.

The shift comes in two parts. As vendors, we need to know that what we sell is of value to you the customer. As a customer, you need to make the shift in your balance sheet to better understand and absorb the value of a subscription model.

Ultimately, if you have more money year on year to spend on what the current need is – you start to take the demand for clairvoyance out of the technology equation. If someone told us in January, our world would be so different in October this year – we would have scoffed. But here we are, so imagine if you had money in the technology bank to play with as opposed to it being tied into a roadmap you had to dream up three years ago.