I was talking with my client the other day as they were looking to replace their web gateway from the early 2000s with an enterprise version of an open-source alternative. This client had a long-standing relationship with BigCo, but wasn’t really happy with them. My client’s previous attempt to escape for a smaller vendor with a much better offering and pricing model was dashed in the middle of their transition when BigCo announced their acquisition of said vendor and resulted in the continuing relationship with BigCo.
Later, when word reached BigCo that my client was looking at an enterprise offering of an open-source gateway, BigCo mentioned they not only had an agreement with this vendor, but if my client would just sign up for a multi-year enterprise agreement, they would get access to the gateway as a part of BigCo’s more expensive proprietary offerings along with other products that can help my client build out a multi-cloud dream of possibilities. It would only cost a few million dollars a year for licenses and with access to enterprise grade support, etc. For an offering from BigCo that is several orders of magnitude more expensive than original vendor’s quote, one must wonder who really benefits? Especially since these agreements are usually overkill for your needs.
Luckily my client saw this for what it was and rejected their offer, but how many others would go along with this? Is it because internal inertia, or more expedient because BigCo is already a pre-approved vendor?
While I was researching the pricing BigCo charges for these kinds of agreements, I was not only amazed at the number of consulting companies that exist to help their clients find ways to fully utilize these kinds of enterprise licenses, but also figure out how to understand the license agreements, and even help with negotiations. It’s no wonder once a company has invested with a vendor, it is next to impossible to migrate away from them.
It should never have to be like a protection racket with your vendor. Not to be lock into an expensive multi-year agreement, nor to use a technology that has no open-source equivalent where there is no hope of portability. Especially in this day of age where there are quite a few vendors where they not only have their own additions, but they also have an open-source version to help provide an additional level of security in case they do get acquired or go out of business.
For example, looking at web gateways: There’s NGINX, which has its own corporate backing. Kong, which also has corporate backing. Then there’s Envoy, while an open-source project is actively maintained by Lyft. On top of that, there are a multitude of firms that can help ensure these are up to snuff to provide the “enterprise grade” level of service and support all for a fraction of what BigCo will charge. And that this is just scratching the surface.
While having a list of choices and technologies lined up to take over is very important, the one thing that cannot be underestimated is timing. If you’re already in a support contract, then now is a good time to lay the groundwork for an early transition. It will give you time to evaluate your options and flush out the issues with the replacement system. Plus you will have time to run in a strangler/hybrid mode to tease out issues in the migration, and give you the confidence to finally break up with your vendor.
I’ve helped others provide a vendor neutral path out of this madness and can help you as well. All versions of BigCo have similar software and services. They promise a consistent ecosystem and an easy support model from a single vendor, but at the end of the day you will ask yourself, what is it that you’re paying for, and is it really worth it? I’d love to help you get your bearings and find a way out.