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5 Tips to Help Mitigate the Risks of Vendor Lock-In In Your Database

· 5 min read
Alexander Fashakin
FerretDB Team

Database vendor lock-in poses a technical, financial, and legal risk for all companies. This article provides you with the 5 tips you need to avoid these risks

How to avoid vendor lock-in

One often overlooked downside of adopting new software is the risk of vendor lock-in. With many aspects of a company's workload running on proprietary software, there's always that unexpected roadblock or draining process when switching to a new vendor.

This is particularly common with cloud-based services and proprietary software where users find it challenging to actually opt out without significant drawbacks. In database platforms, the risks associated with vendor lock-in can be quite alarming, leaving you with little to no control over your data and ultimately impacting your business.

If you're experiencing this, this article will provide you with the tips you need to mitigate the risks of vendor lock-in in your database platform.

What is vendor lock-in?

Vendor lock-in is a worrying situation where a company uses software that makes it difficult to migrate or switch to a new one, without significant financial costs, legal ramifications, or technical incompatibilities. Letting users leave with ease means lost revenue for these vendors; instead, they attempt to discourage users as much as they can.

Besides, users may have a hard time if the service or software suddenly goes out of business, raises costs, or stops upgrading critical business features.

Some cloud applications offer managed cloud services with hosting on specific providers such as AWS, Azure, or GCP. However, it's essential to distinguish between vendors that offer managed cloud and those that provide completely on-prem capabilities when you need them.

5 tips to help you prevent vendor lock-in

True vendor independence comes from an open and clear understanding of the options available with the software, and having complete control over data. The following tips can help reduce the impact of vendor lock-in in your workload:

Thoroughly evaluate vendor service

You want to thoroughly vet all your essential technologies and ensure they run on modern infrastructure, compatible with most of the services you need. You don't want your IT workload on a legacy system that will be hard to upgrade or manage.

If you're looking to adopt new software, you should also make sure it matches your current and future expectations, including the product roadmap and how much control you'll have over your data.

Use open-source technologies

A viable way to prevent vendor lock-in is to adopt open-source software. With OSS, you get complete access and control to the source code, and the opportunity to host it anywhere you want. You won't have to worry about tailoring the application to suit your specific business needs; you can make those changes yourself. Read more on the dangers that MongoDB's SSPL license poses to open source.

This is even more poignant for database platforms that host and manage your application's data. Take MongoDB Atlas, for example. While the enterprise DBaaS platform offers you a chance to host the application on any of the supported cloud providers, you won't actually have complete access or control over the source code, leading to a vendor lock situation.

Instead, you should take advantage of open-source technologies like FerretDB and PostgreSQL to build your backend architecture and save yourself from vendor lock-in.

Ensure that you can easily migrate your data

One of the first things to keep in mind when adopting new software is the ease of migration or portability. Can you seamlessly move your data from one environment to another without facing significant challenges in the process?

Another interesting factor to consider is the data model of the platform and how they save data. Is it easily compatible with comparable alternative solutions?

For instance, with FerretDB, you'll be able to write your application queries and commands using all the MongoDB syntaxes you are familiar with and have them stored in PostgreSQL or Tigris; there's no need to learn a new language or command.

Ensure stakeholders buy-in

For every tech team, ensuring stakeholder support in decisions is critical, and this extends to the risk of vendor lock-in. Educate them on the business impacts of vendor lock-in and how the choice of software can seriously impede or drive growth. This information provided should also include ToS, SLAs, legal obligations of the software vendor, and how they all align with the company's needs.

Have an exit strategy

One thing is for certain: change is constant. With that in mind, you want to prepare for any eventuality. Software vendors can raise their prices at any moment, deprecate a key feature, or even go out of business. Having a clear plan for any of these eventualities will help you mitigate the risk of vendor lock-in.

With non-proprietary or open-source software, you won't have to face the same risks. Even if the vendor ceases operation, you'll still have the last version of the application running with enough time to migrate or switch to an alternative. You should also ensure to back up your data internally to prevent data loss when migration is problematic and unfeasible.

Prevent vendor lock-in in your database with FerretDB and PostgreSQL

FerretDB is an open-source proxy that translates MongoDB drivers and protocols to SQL, stored in PostgreSQL. This makes it ideal as a swap-in replacement for MongoDB where users won't have to worry about vendor lock-in or accruing significant license costs when hosting the applications on the cloud.

Having OSS solutions like FerretDB and PostgreSQL as the backend, users will have a vendor-independent database platform that reduces the possibilities of lock-in while granting complete control over their data.

When paired with Tigris Data – a DBaaS platform for real-time applications – FerretDB will be able to provide users with a true MongoDB Atlas alternative, without all the risks that come with vendor lock-in.

Read this article to learn more about the importance of open-source software and how it helps mitigate the risks of vendor lock-in.

(cover image: Markus Spiske,