As cloud computing becomes all the more pervasive, people are rethinking the idea of buying software and hardware suites in favor of best of breed approach. In a way, cloud architecture makes it easy to avoid the integrated stack lock-in as interoperability through open APIs is taken for granted in most cases. At Boxworks 2012, Aaron Levie has been highlighting this fact to position themselves as the content management player well suited for best of breed purchasing decisions (see my Pre-Boxworks post on the topic). It is not just Aaron but all cloud players without a full stack offering put forward this argument as their business strategy. Even though it gives hope for end-cusotmers wanting to avoid vendor lock-in, the idea that cloud architecture alone enables best of breed approach is an oversimplification.
Yes, Cloud architecture solves the technology problem but it doesn’t do much to solve the legal, business and cultural problems associated with interoperability, which is the critical factor for the best of breed strategy. When you are betting on the best of breed strategy, unless there are business and legal agreements with the other players, there is always a business continuity risk involved. For example, let us take the case of Box with Chatter. Today both companies have the necessary technical architecture to enable the interoperability. However, in the future, whenever Salesforce is feeling the business pressure to push ChatterBox to their Chatter customers, the changed business circumstances might push Salesforce to not play nice with Box. Twitter’s sudden decision to change their policy on API usage in the consumer space is a good example for this business pressure based “evil” decisions. Even though such occurrences are less frequent in the enterprise market where the money goes a long way than the fermium model of the consumer space, it is a realistic danger for most organizations betting on the best of breed approach. Unless there is long term business and legal agreement between the vendors involved, the best of breed approach poses a risk for the end customers.
No, it doesn’t make suite approach better. There is always the bigger risk of vendor lock-in and the associated costs. What I am trying to argue here is that cloud architecture, by itself, doesn’t make best of breed a viable option. If you are taking the best of breed route, it is important for you to look beyond the technology and make sure there are solid business and legal foundations behind the interoperability claims. Push the vendor to give more information on the partnership before committing yourself to the strategy. Let me make it clear. I am a big sucker of best of breed approach over the suite approach but I just want to point out that your strategy should not be based on the assumption that cloud automatically implies the best of breed approach. Look deeper into other potential issues (including the integration issues) before diving in. #justsayin
Disclosure: Box took care of my travel and stay for Boxworks 2012
- BoxWorks 2012 – Predictions and Prognostications (cloudave.com)
- Nothing Stops the Box Bunny (cloudave.com)
- Box Counters the Threat of ChatterBox – The Switzerland of Content Collaboration (diversity.net.nz)
- Open vs. Closed: The Cloud Wars (bits.blogs.nytimes.com)