Cloud and Continuity of Supply Risk

This rather amusing article in Slate appeared in my LinkedIn feed – Google Reader Joins the Graveyard of Dead Google Products. The article invites you to leave a flower on the grave of your favourite dead Google product. The startling thing is how many there are: 39 by their count! The lesson that I draw from this is not that Google kill off a lot of products, it is that with cloud computing we must account for the risks around continuity of supply, and specifically that continuity of supply risks are not solely due to companies failing.

What we see with the Google graveyard is a company in no risk of failing anytime soon discontinuing its cloud  products when they are no longer viable. Cloud computing is such a new market that many organisations are trying things out and their cool new product may not stand the test of time, and even longstanding (comparatively) products may find their viability undermined by disruptive changes. Traditional continuity of supply risks are usually about your supplier or vendor going under, and your organisation no longer being able to get support or maintenance for your critical business software. But with cloud computing you have the risk that a vendor will just stop delivering a product and you can no longer use it – in fact you may then struggle to get your data off it.

We shouldn’t overstate this risk. Like many issues in cloud computing it is just a slightly different spin on a traditional area of risk (vendor and product viability) that sourcing and vendor management professionals are used to considering. However it does seem to have a slightly more significant impact in the area of cloud computing and you should definitely not miss it out of your equations. In particular:

  1. Consider continuity of supply risks when assessing cloud services.
  2. Don’t just think of the company failing, but also consider the company discontinuing the product.
  3. Consider how you might get access to your data if a company or product is discontinued.
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2 Comments to “Cloud and Continuity of Supply Risk”

  1. They sure aren’t shy of killing off apps, and this must surely impact the uptake of any new apps as people will wonder about their longevity.
    In a IaaS/PaaS/SaaS cloud context though it does re-enforce the principles of architecting for failure and defining the policy around your workload so that it can be portable between cloud suppliers (aka Software Defined Data Centres).

    • Absolutely – the answer here is a commercial-technical one. A combination of the right commercial controls (contract clauses about continuity and rights to data) along with the right technical controls (portability, interoperabilty) is the best way to mitigate this risk.

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