Automation vendor lock-in: How to deal with it?January 27, 2021 — Jani Palsamäki
What is automation vendor lock-in, what can it cause, and how to deal with it? 🔐 😎
In economics, vendor lock-in, also known as proprietary lock-in or customer lock-in, makes a customer dependent on a vendor for products and services, unable to use another vendor without substantial switching costs. Wikipedia, Vendor lock-in
You have identified a process you want to automate. You need an automation solution to implement and manage the automation.
So many solutions!
So many options to choose from! There's GUITrail, Robotization Everywhere, Green Crystal, AutoScorchingOpener...
Each solution has its strengths and weaknesses. Choosing one vendor over another is always a compromise.
Short-term goals reached
Choose the one that fulfills your needs best at the moment, right? Whatever you choose will help you with solving your problem (automating your process).
Clouds on the horizon
Fast-forward two years. Your vendor notifies it has to jack up (⤴️) the yearly per-robot license fee substantially. The increased cost means the 300 robots you have implemented will start losing money instead of saving it. 📉
Time to migrate your robots
The realization hits you. Hard. The robots have been implemented using vendor-proprietary tooling, and they run on vendor-specific orchestration platform, unlike anything else out there.
The only way to migrate is to reimplement all of the robots from scratch. Ouch! The pain! The horror! 🙀
Since the implementation tooling used vendor-proprietary drag & drop diagrams and scripting languages, none of those transfer as-is. Your developers need to learn a new set of tools and languages. Talk about demotivation! All those years learning the tools - are they wasted? 😞
Traveling back in time
Luckily your next-door neighbor is an inventor. You borrow her time machine and travel back in time before the moment you chose the solution. The pain fresh in your memory, you glance at your notes:
Know and control the costs
Pay for the actual time the robots are creating value. Optimize the speed where it makes sense. Development tools: should be free. Documentation and learning resources: also free. Don't need the super-convenient cloud orchestration? You are not forced to use it! Run your robots yourself!
Free yourself from vendor-proprietary tooling
As a company, choosing to adopt widely-used open-source projects means you have access to all the global development talent for those open-source projects! Every time you or someone else contributes back to those projects, everyone reaps the benefits.
As a company, you don't need to reimplement everything if migrating your robots elsewhere. Migrate 300 bots to another orchestration platform? Not an issue; totally doable! You can even build your own orchestration if you want to!
As a developer, choose a solution that builds on top of widely-used and popular open-source projects. Learn once, use everywhere! ☝️
As a developer, learning does not go to waste, since knowing those tools will always have market value outside your company and even business domain.
As a developer, working on your marketable professional skills while you earn money to feed your family is a winning combination! As a company, attract the top talent!
A new beginning
The time machine door opens. You step outside and pull your laptop out of your backpack. You google "open source stack for simplifying automation". Hmm. It seems to check all the boxes! 😀