Globally, as more businesses begin to use cloud services, interoperability and portability are terms you will hear quite often. What may seem like very technical concepts are quite business-centric, and understanding how portable or interoperable a particular cloud solution is, and that is very critical to business success.
If your business is trying to move from legacy tools to cloud-based solutions, you will need to familiarize yourself with both these concepts and ensure that you make the right decisions before choosing your cloud vendor. The most important advantage of understanding cloud interoperability and portability is that you will be able to avoid vendor lock-ins and pick and choose the services you want.
In this article, let us take a look at both cloud interoperability and cloud portability, and how it affects your cloud performance, and what you need to do in order to choose the best services.
What is cloud interoperability?
Cloud interoperability is the capacity of two or more systems to swap information and use the information that has just been swapped. This means, both public and private cloud applications and services should be able to exchange and understand APIs, data formats, and configuration. Jason Sparapani also lists authorization and forms of configuration as part of the information that can be exchanged.
When APIs are exchanged and interoperability is built into cloud systems, customers can switch from one service to another without feeling locked-in or obliged to be with a single vendor. What this really means to you as a business owner is, if your cloud service rates high on interoperability, you will be able to change your vendor if you are not happy with their services, at a minimal cost.
Your data and information cannot be locked-in by your vendor for any period of time. This freedom not only allows you to change when you are not happy with the services but will also drive cloud vendors to remain competitive and offer the best in class services.
What is cloud portability?
Portability offers cloud users a different kind of freedom. Cloud portability refers to your ability to transfer data and apps between legacy and cloud systems, and also between different services provided by different vendors. Cloud data portability helps you transfer data between legacy and cloud systems. APIs help you do that, by allowing you to migrate data from a legacy tool to a cloud tool (or the other way round, if you so choose to do).
Cloud application portability helps you to move an actual application from your legacy system to the cloud, or from one cloud service to another. Cloud application portability helps you to use the app you want, in the place where you want to do so. Cloud data and app portability are not the same as interoperability, and this refers to your own freedom to move applications and data around. Interoperability, on the other hand, refers to the application or service’s ability to exchange data and information and also to use it.
If the API could solve it all, why don’t we just have one?
The main reason interoperability is a challenge at the moment is, there are far too many companies offering cloud services, and they all have different APIs. This means, two applications with different APIs will not be able to read each other, and this is also how many companies indirectly lock you into their cloud-based plans.
APIs are not standardized, and businesses often have to seek developers who will build mapping layers to communicate between different APIs. There are also cloud service brokers who will do the mapping for you. Both Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) face the challenge of too many APIs being around. As a business client, you are most likely to use a system delivered via SaaS.
Before you sign an agreement with your vendor, make sure that you ask the following questions:
What you actually need to do
You must also bear in mind that not all applications can be readily ported to the cloud. If they depend on legacy technology, and if they actually need on-site machinery in place, porting data to the cloud can prove to be difficult. However, there are hybrid methods that combine both cloud and on-site systems to create portability during future use. To make sure that you are safe nevertheless, you need to make sure of the following factors:
Before you choose a cloud service, you need to make sure that it is scalable. If your business grows, you should be able to add or remove features and capacity according to your demand. Do not hesitate to make this is a decisive criteria while choosing your cloud service.
Agile cloud applications and services ensure that your business runs smoothly and efficiently. Agile development ensures that cloud-based projects are completed in time and that there are no delays in either porting or moving data to whichever service or application you want.
Do not sign a contract upfront that requires you to pay large amounts of money in the beginning. Make sure that you pay as you go, without getting locked into services or subscription plans. Having an honest conversation with your vendor usually solves this problem.
What about security?
While everything about interoperability looks good on paper, and in conversations, there are also certain risks. One of the main risks is security. When too many companies, platforms, and applications are involved, the chances of your data being compromised is higher. You should always ensure that your vendor offers top-notch security measures to ensure your data and applications remain safe. Even larger companies such as Google and Amazon have faced security challenges on their cloud-based plans and systems, and this is something you need to bear in mind. However, interoperability is still too hard to ignore, and you need to find a vendor who will not only promise interoperability and portability but also high-grade security.
At the European Conference on a Service-Based Internet. Dana Petcu rightly pointed out that “the greatest challenge beyond trust and security for long-term adoption of cloud computing is the interoperability between clouds.” However, we go a step ahead and say that the greatest challenge for interoperability between clouds is security too.
Few use cases of cloud interoperability and portability
Use Case 1
eCommerce business finds it hard to keep up with order processing
Situation: An eCommerce business found it hard to process orders in time, despite subscribing to a good ERP and CRM over the cloud. It was creating multiple copies of invoices and sales receipts, leading to confusion.
Solution: As both the ERP and CRM providers had used open source APIs, it was possible for us to integrate the ERP and CRM, so that manual entries, duplication of data, and general business chaos could be avoided.
Results: The eCommerce business was able to integrate its CRM and ERP over the cloud with minimal effort, thanks to an open source API common to both the services.
Use Case 2
Logistics provider finds it difficult to move out of a constricting cloud solution
Situation: A logistics provider had subscribed to a cloud-based GPS service. However, it found the service restricting and was unable to move to a different provider due to vendor lock-in.
Solution: Vendor lock-ins can be addressed by ensuring that future cloud solutions are interoperable. Data was migrated to another cloud service by building mapping layers.
Results: While the effort came with an additional cost, the company was able to free itself from a constricting cloud-based plan to a freer and more interoperable plan.
Choose your vendor carefully
As you can see, it is important to make sure that cloud solutions are interoperable and portable, so that you do not have to worry about vendor lock-ins and other issues. Ask the questions you need to ask and make sure that you pay as you go. Do not commit to expensive plans and bear in mind that your data is your right. Just make sure that the cloud vendor, regardless of where they are located globally, not only promises interoperability and portability but also promises (and demonstrates) a high level of security compliance.