Check out anytime you like…

From a comment yesterday – perhaps the biggest cautionary tale and planning point if you’re using online services in your environment.

AZJim pretty much called out one of my biggest planning points and concerns when it comes to working with online services (platform, services, virtual machines, whatever) AND on-premise solutions architectures in this world of “many tools make a solution.”

He conjured up Hotel California – you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

If this isn’t a planning point – to prevent this as much as possible, it’s something that should likely be on your radar ASAP. Specifically, as you use more and more of the specialized environments (from SQL Server to Hadoop, from different analysis and reporting tools to even developer toolsets), you have to be very aware of dependencies and vendor lock in all along the way.

That’s not to say that there isn’t great leverage, functionality and pay off of using these toolsets and environments. In fact, they add great value in big ways. But the key is to know about and plan on lock-in – and then to make sure that’s OK with your future plans.

In some areas, it’s worth it. It’s ok that you’ll be using that toolset for the life of the application or environment. But in others, perhaps if you’re locked in to a combination of tools to perform a specific deliverable, you may want to be more careful.

In systems that I’ve worked with, this decision point often comes in these combined environments –

– we capture the data using a specific toolset

– we save/protect that data using a toolset

– we send it to a series of processes that are based in sevearl different tools, woven together to get the results and information we need from the system. This step is the biggest one to be sure you understand, it has one of the biggest potentials for failing if your environment changes if you don’t know, very specifically, how to build out that solution environment.

– we use the outcomes from the processes in custom analysis tools

You want to make sure that, if you changed providers, if you moved cloud providers or even from on-premise to cloud (or back again) or application tool providers, you would know how things interact and how conclusions are reached for the data. Storage, security, usage, conveying results, compliance… all of it comes into play and you’ll need to make sure you have meticulous information on those bits and pieces.

  • wclardy

    It’s not just a consideration for online environments — it’s something that should be a conscious decision factor in almost every step of building or modifying a business process. Even if you have modularized your processes, changing the tool underneath a given component can be very costly — I remember a few years back when the U.S. Army decided that several logistical systems should be switched to using Oracle on the back side, because there had been a surplus of Oracle licenses purchased (SQL is SQL, right?). In every case that I was aware of, the cost of replacing a Microsoft or Sybase backend with an Oracle system was high enough that just letting those Oracle licenses sit unused would have been vastly less expensive — and that’s without getting into the increased operations costs of all the new bugs.