Why cloud workload portability is a pipe dream

At last week’s AWS event in Santa Clara, California, Amazon GM of product strategy Matt Wood gave a rousing recapitulation of the abundant services offered by the world’s leading public cloud, from good old Elastic Map Reduce to Kinesis to AWS Lambda to the ruggedized AWS Snowball box for shipping data via UPS 80TB at a time. When you hear this litany, it’s hard to avoid wondering how other clouds can catch up in the sheer number and variety of services, let alone in market share.

At the same time, Google and others maintain they’re hearing enterprise customers say they don’t want to put all their eggs in one basket and are spreading their bets across multiple clouds. In a recent conversation with CloudHealth Technologies, an IT service management provider for the cloud, I heard a slightly different spin: Different parts of enterprises tend to choose clouds for tactical reasons — so an uptick in the adoption of multiple clouds tends to be “strategic” only in hindsight.

Either way, subscribing to multiple clouds doesn’t mean you’re going to move workloads among them. CloudHealth’s monitoring services gives the company a clear view of what customers with multiple clouds are doing, and although CEO Dan Phillips has read speculation in the tech press about “everyone moving their workloads back and forth,” he says, “it’s just not happening.”

It’s easy to see why. Sure, Docker and container management and orchestration solutions have made portability vastly easier, but as soon as you start availing yourself of the special services of whatever platform you’re on, you’re hooked.