Are Cloud Portability and Interoperabilty Even Possible?

Are Cloud Portability and Interoperabilty Even Possible?

For any business moving to the cloud, there always comes the decision of which cloud provider to go with. There are several providers on the market, from tech giants like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google to businesses whose sole job is to host cloud environments for clients. Even if you make what seems like the correct decision, however, things sometimes don’t turn out the way you envisioned them. For one reason or another, you may find yourself looking to switch to another cloud provider. However, there’s a problem: how do you migrate all your projects from one cloud to the next?

Cloud portability is the ability to transfer applications between cloud environments without messing with the app itself. Because a cloud provider’s environment is inherently different from others, moving apps between different providers can cause compatibility issues. Several cloud providers claim to be portability-friendly, but this is often just a way to attract customers looking to switch cloud environments. Despite what any cloud provider says, true cloud portability is impossible – though that isn’t necessarily the end of the world.

Interoperability: the pipe dream

Interoperability, or the ability for computers to share information with each other, is the basis of cloud portability. Data and applications might be created with a specific operating system or runtime in mind. That makes it tricky to move that information to a different environment without any problems. Even if the functions of a system are the same, the foundation it’s based upon is crucial for application stability. Because it’s fundamental for cloud portability to work, cloud providers need to support interoperability between each other’s systems. Unfortunately, this rarely happens fro two major reasons: native features and the lack of standards.

The crux of native features

Just like any other kind of service, cloud providers present native features in their services. These are features that the provider specializes in, or that no other provider offers. They go beyond the basics of cloud computing and are designed to give developers additional resources for their applications. The problem is when developers use these native components, they inevitably set themselves up for lock-in. If apps depend on provider-exclusive features, that app will certainly have difficulty shifting to another cloud environment.

Sadly, cloud providers won’t simply stop producing native features. After all, they’re important in distinguishing one provider from another, which helps them find customers. When you consider that these same providers advertise cloud portability while also helping to destroy it, the problem invariably becomes bigger.

Developing a standard

Thankfully, some groups have made efforts to create some level of portability and interoperability. Organizations such as IEEE and ISO/IEC have created cloud portability standards that all cloud providers should follow. The standards are meant to achieve interoperability between cloud environments in order to provide a common framework for developers.

However, while this does address the problems with portability, the fact that there are multiple documented standards indicates a continuation of the cycle. Which standards should be adopted? Even if there was only one set of standards to follow, would every provider follow it?

The bottom line is that true cloud portability isn’t possible to achieve. That being said, developers still have the ability to keep their projects intact while migrating from cloud to cloud. Making the switch from one cloud provider to another should be done after planning a migration strategy. If apps depend on native features, devs should retool them as much as possible to ensure their information isn’t lost. Cloud portability might be difficult to provide, but with smart handling, developers don’t necessarily need it.

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Daniel Hein