One of the significant concerns in entering the cloud is the potential for lock-in with a cloud provider (though clearly you otherwise remain locked-in with your own IT department as the sole provider).
The cost of moving from one provider to another is a significant obstacle to cloud penetration – if you could change provider easily and painlessly you might be more inclided to take the risk. Various services have emerged to try to attack this problem – CloudSwitch being one which created a considerable buzz at the Structure 2010 conference. Their service aims to provide a software means to transfer enterprise applications from a company’s data centre into the cloud (and between cloud providers). Whether it can live up to expectations we have yet to know, but CloudSwitch is attempting to provide a degree of portability much desired by clients – and probably much feared by Cloud Service providers whose business would reduce to utility suppliers if they are successful.
But this links into another interesting conversation I was having with a media executive last week. They mentioned that since cloud virtual machines were so cheap they often (effectively) host services across a number of suppliers to provide their own redundancy and thus ignore the SLA. If one service goes down they can switch quickly (using load balancers etc) to another utility supplier. Clearly this only works for commodity IaaS and for relatively simple content distribution (rather than transaction processing) but it is a compelling model… why worry about choosing one cloud provider and being locked-in or risking poor SLA – choose them all.