Why don’t cloud providers integrate?

Companies will never be single-vendor IT shops. Cloud service providers and other technology providers who don’t play the game with competing products are hurting their customers.

It seems that “integration as a core product feature” is the new religion of AWS. Admittedly, there is still a lot of progress to be made, but it is undoubtedly a good strategy for AWS to follow. But the real question is, why aren’t all vendors prioritizing integration? “The tech news industry has spent decades watching Apple, Microsoft and others ignore competing products outside their own niches.” This is true from a consumer perspective (prioritize browsers, first-hand apps, etc.), but it’s also true from a business perspective. Except that in business it’s disturbing. For example, you can find a consumer who is willing to leave their entire mobile experience to Apple (hardware, operating system, applications, etc.), but no company has ever exclusively used the technology of a single supplier, even if it publicly proclaims itself. “who understands everything”. Enterprise IT just doesn’t work that way. So why aren’t technology vendors more focused on reaching customers? Why not focus on integration with competing products instead of insisting on a utopian single-vendor future that will never happen?

The logic of the zero sum game

I’m sure you can find good explanations for this. For example, it is easier to control the customer experience if you control the moving parts. It was probably easier in the pre-cloud world, when vendors shipped software and left responsibility for operations to customers. In contrast, in the cloud world, Google, AWS and Microsoft do the “undifferentiated heavy duty” (to use AWS’s favorite phrase) as operating code for customers. It is much harder and arguably more difficult to integrate third-party services without breaking the overall customer experience. And yet some providers succeed. Although the comparison is not equal in every way, Google’s Athos enables enterprises to run applications across multiple clouds and other operating environments, including those that Google does not control. As with Amazon DataZone, it is fully possible to manage third-party data sources. An IT manager at a large travel and hospitality company told me on condition of anonymity: “I’m sure cloud service providers can integrate third-party services, but it’s not a choice they’re willing to make. For example, they could release certain interfaces so third parties can integrate with their control plane and other data plane resources. In other words, integration is possible, but vendors don’t always seem to want it. This desire for control sometimes leads vendors down paths that don’t are optimal for customers. As this IT manager puts it, “the ecosystem is breaking up. Instead of interoperating with third-party services, cloud providers often choose to build competing API-enabled services. He continues: “It is the logic of the zero-sum game that dominates here”. In other words, if a customer uses a third-party database and not the supplier’s preferred first-hand database, the supplier loses. Such reasoning makes sense to suppliers, but it does not to customers. And because it does not make sense to customers, it is doubtful whether it actually benefits the sellers. So what would be the most sensible solution?

An essential blend

Let’s take the example of a medium-sized IT shop. Whether it’s shadow IT, mergers and acquisitions, changing IT policies, or other reasons, companies tend to use a mix of different databases, operating systems, clouds, development toolkits, etc. The vendor that embraces this reality and helps its customers effectively manage this complexity can have the best “lockdown” of all: one that makes life for business customers easier, not harder. The most persistent lock for businesses is not tied to a software license. As Gartner analyst Merv Adrian once told me when discussing databases, “the greatest strength of existing databases is inertia.” And it’s not just about databases. Once a company has made a technology choice, the friction of adopting another technology often gets the better of its best intentions.

Better be an operator, right?

To some extent yes, but no vendor can get ahead and hoard customer workloads. Especially in the cloud space (which still only accounts for 6% of global IT spending), and even less today, with the worsening macroeconomic situation, the key to increasing revenue is bringing in new volumes of work. But what is the best way to achieve this? By connecting to software and systems that a customer already uses, you avoid the friction of introducing new technology. In other words, the path to success is to adopt and expand complementary or competing products rather than wishing they didn’t exist. This is especially true for cloud service providers. I maintain, as I have stated before, that “the cloud providers that create the largest ecosystems and partner networks will be the big winners from this integration.” The CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, seems to go in this direction by emphasizing that “the real world is not a homogeneous world of Microsoft infrastructures. It is a multi-cloud, multi-platform world. ” Hyperscale clouds must find the best way to allow businesses and communities to thrive on their platforms, rather than trying to bring (or take away) solutions from a customer who already has them. In 2023, integration will be crucial. Clouds and other technology vendors that achieve this will win more workloads than vendors pushing for a single-vendor world that will never happen.

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