What is an exit strategy and why do you need one?

Cloud is everywhere these days. There is no doubt about that. Everyone already did or is about to make an important decision - which cloud provider to choose?

For enterprise solutions, the first thought goes to the big players: Amazon, Microsoft, Google. They provide both private and public cloud solutions using their own set of APIs, command-line tools and of course pricing.

It is very easy to get in, but is it the same with getting out? All your services may already benefit from great tools and services shared by your provider. Awesome tools, but specific to the company. Does Amazon CLI work with Azure? Not really.

The important part is that the scale of your infrastructure you can manage. The software can be optimized, to some point, but still, it may be a viable choice. Resources can be hosted using CDN to better manage bandwidth and storage cost. But what can be done if the provider increased the prices? How this can be mitigated?

    The exit strategy

    This is why you need an exit strategy. The plan to move all your resources safely and possibly without any interruptions from one warehouse to another. Or even the plan to migrate from one provider to the another. The reasons for the change may be very different. Pricing change, network problems, low latency or even a law change. All this may push your company against the wall. It is fine when you are prepared, but how to do this?

    It may seem more on the paranoic side or catastrophic thinking, but in reality, it is not so uncommon. Even worse case, which is a provider shut down, happened a lot lately. It is especially visible with an example of cloud storage startups. $15 million dollars CloudMine startup filed for bankruptcy last year. A few years ago the same thing happened to Nirvanix and Megacloud. Nobody expected that and a lot of companies has been facing that problem - how can we safely move all the data if everything can disappear in 2 weeks?

    Does it mean AWS will go down tomorrow? Probably not, but would you like to bet if it will be there in 10 years? A few years ago nobody even heard about Alibaba Cloud, and now they have 19 datacenters worldwide. The world is moving so fast that nobody can say what tomorrow brings.

    How to mitigate the problem?

    So we have established what the problem is. Now let’s move to the solutions. In the following paragraphs, I will briefly paint a picture of what consists of an exit strategy and may help you move towards it.

    One of them is to use a platform like Cloud Foundry or Kubernets which can enable you to run your services on any cloud. All big names offer some kind of hosted Kubernetes solutions: Amazon ECS, Microsoft AKS and Google GKE. Moving workloads from one Kubernetes deployment to another, even private hosted, is easy.

    This may not be enough though. Sometimes you have more than containers deployed. The crucial part then will be to have infrastructure as a config. Consider if the way you deploy your platform to IaaS is really transferable? Do you use provider-specific databases, storage or services? Maybe you should change some solutions to more universal ones?

    Next part will be to make sure services your write, deploy and configure are truly cloud-native. Are they really portable in a way you can get the same source code or docker image and run on the different infrastructure? Are all external services loosely coupled and bounded to your application so you can easily exchange them? Are all your microservices platforms independent?

    Last, but not least is to backup everything. Really, EVERYTHING. Not just all your data, but also the configuration of services, infrastructure, and platforms. If you can restore everything from the ground up to the working platform in 24 hours you are better than most of your competitors.

    So why do I need one?

    Avoiding provider lock-in may not be easy, especially when your company just started to use AWS or Azure. You may not feel very comfortable creating an exit strategy for different providers or just don’t know where to start. There are solutions, like Grape Up’s Cloudboostr, that manage backups and multi-cloud interoperability out of the box. Using this kind of platform may save you a lot of pain.

    An exit strategy gives you a lot of freedom. New, small cloud provider comes to the market and gives you a very competitive price? You can move all your services to their infrastructure. Especially when we consider that small cloud providers can be more flexible and more keen to adapt to their client needs.

    An exit plan gives safety, freedom, and security. Do not think of it as optional. The whole world goes toward the multi-cloud and the hybrid cloud. According to Forbes, this is what 2019 will matter most in the cloud ecosystem. Do you want to stay behind? Or are you already prepared for the worse?

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