Origins of PTSD
In my previous job, I was given a severe case of vendor lock-in PTSD by Microsoft. I was the head of development in a company that developed payroll and HR plugins for Microsoft’s ERP Business Central. I think Microsoft, especially in the last 10-15 years, had severe strategy problems and was scattered all over the place, trying to copy and profit on the newest trend out there (and usually trying to ram it rather forcefully into their ecosystem).
Specifically, for developers of plugins for BC, this meant that every 3-5 years, they completely changed how one should develop an extension, giving little to no care for backward compatibility. Just as we invested and properly developed really nice functionality, they would no longer support the technology they were heavily pushing just 5 minutes ago. This meant we had to invest significant time and engineering effort to rewrite the entire plugin, instead of focusing on improving it and offering new functionality. And just for fun, we had to maintain almost 100% backward compatibility because the majority of clients were not upgrading to the newest platform version anytime soon. As the head of development, this gave me countless headaches and made me extremely frustrated, because I felt like we had to unnecessarily reinvent the wheel for the 15th time.
Parler: a cautionary tale?
Okay, I have some things to say about Microsoft, but there are other vendors, hopefully friendlier vendors out there. Or are there? To preface: I really don’t care about the political beliefs of my co-workers, and I think companies shouldn’t play political games at all. I am not and have never been a user of Parler (heck, before the story broke out, I had never even heard of them). I truly don’t care about them; what I do care about is the precedent this action sets.
What is he talking about, you might ask? In January 2021, AWS announced they would be suspending services to Parler, a right-wing focused social network. An infrastructure provider made sure they were within their contractual rights to drop a customer if they decided to, and dropped they did. AWS established a precedent that it is okay to suspend services to a company with which they don’t agree.
I have a dream of Meetings.bio eventually becoming a large company, and this move on AWS’ part made me think hard. Would I want the fate of my potentially $100M organisation in the hands of an arbitrary decision-maker at AWS? However unlikely it seems, what if they decide to launch a competing service and deplatform us? Would I potentially risk 10 years of blood, sweat, and tears to come crashing down?
Vendor-independence at Meetings.bio
From the discussion above, one might easily deduce that I truly care about being independent from vendor lock-in (or in the words of the great William Wallace: “Freedooooooom!”). In the second post of this series, I will discuss how we design for and maintain vendor independence at Meetings.bio.