Vendor lock-in is when someone is essentially forced to continue using a product or service regardless of quality, because switching away from that product or service is not practical.
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Vendor lock-in refers to a situation where the cost of switching to a different vendor is so high that the customer is essentially stuck with the original vendor. Because of financial pressures, an insufficient workforce, or the need to avoid interruptions to business operations, the customer is "locked in" to what may be an inferior product or service.
Imagine an office has coffee brought in by a coffee vendor, and this vendor requires specific coffee machines in the office that only the vendor sells. Now imagine there is a steep decline in the quality of the coffee that this vendor delivers. Switching to a new coffee vendor would mean the old machines they purchased become useless, as the switch likely requires the purchase of new coffee-making equipment. Given the hassle and added expense of replacing every coffee machine, the workers in the office would be effectively locked into their agreement with their old vendor and forced to drink inferior coffee.
A real-world example of vendor lock-in is the way Apple locked consumers into using iTunes in the early days of the service, because music purchased via iTunes could only be played within the iTunes application or on an iPod.
In cloud computing, some amount of software or computing infrastructure is outsourced to a cloud vendor, which offers it as a service and delivers it over the Internet. For instance, cloud-hosted servers are infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), and cloud-hosted applications are software-as-a-service (SaaS).
Sometimes, a company may find themselves locked into a certain cloud provider. Vendor lock-in can become an issue in cloud computing because it is very difficult to move databases once they are set up, especially in a cloud migration, which involves moving data to a totally different type of environment and may involve reformatting the data. Also, once a third party's software is incorporated into a business's processes, the business may become dependent upon that software.
A number of circumstances can negatively impact a business if they are locked in with a certain cloud vendor:
Overall, handing off foundational, business-critical technology to an external vendor is not easy for any company, and it requires a large degree of trust in the vendor.
Operating in the cloud is a must for most modern businesses. Cloudflare helps prevent businesses from becoming too dependent on any one cloud provider.
Cloudflare is infrastructure-agnostic — the Cloudflare product stack can be deployed in front of any type of infrastructure, with any cloud provider or combination of providers (including multi-cloud and hybrid cloud deployments). With Cloudflare deployed, a company is not dependent upon cloud infrastructure providers for performance, reliability, and security services, and they can move easily between cloud providers while still offering fast, reliable service to customers.