Jonas Rosland Jonas Rosland

Vendor lock-in is real but silly.

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This might come off as a bit of a rant, but the notion of so called vendor lock-in is something I hear constantly in the IT industry and I’m getting tired of it.

TL;DR: Lock-in is just a choice of current state.

Why is it silly?

The concept of vendor lock-in is that if you buy a product you’re locked into that product’s features and functions, and therefore you might be missing out on other interesting things.

And this is absolutely true. There’s not a single product out there that can satisfy every single human being on this planet (sorry iPhone), and instead of pursuing an interesting discussion on what might actually be good about the different products for different people’s needs (why not have an iPhone and and Android tablet?) the discussion instead goes to “vendor lock-in” and constant vendor bashing. Let me make an analogy.

You’re out buying milk. You pick up a milk carton with a screw top on it. You take it home, you drink the milk, you’re happy with it, but you wish it had a handle like those plastic milk jugs carry it easily from the fridge to the table. You’re locked-in to carrying the milk carton in a certain way.

Alright, so next time you’re grocery shopping you pick up a plastic milk jug with a handle instead. This time it’s easy to carry, but when you come home you see that it doesn’t have the nice full-color images on it, so it’s not as attractive on the breakfast table. It also uses a pop-off top instead of a screw cap, which means you have to change your operations when attempting to get milk out of the jug. Again, locked-in.

The example above of course is silly, but it’s to show a point. You’re not locked-in.

You made a choice.

Making a choice is part of our daily lives. This applies when it comes to buying any type of product (cars, clothes, houses, IT equipment), and you might actually be better off when choosing different things for different purposes. Better prices, better functionality for your current use cases, better integrations with existing tech be it Internet connectivity, home automation, datacenter infrastructure, application development and deployment, or something else where you have identified a need. You should always get what’s best for you in that situation.

I don’t believe in lock-in. I believe in making choices.

For more reading, I recommend Tyler Britten’s post on measuring friction.