As a business owner, I love being able to rent software solutions in the cloud. It's flexible, fast to deploy and evaluate, easy to scale, and there's no large up-front capital investment.

But what happens when you want to leave? If the provider doubles the price, halves the performance, or goes bust?

Have you realised just how much freedom you've lost by not having a perpetual licence?

Loadbalancer.org - Vendor lock-in sucks – How do I leave my cloud software provider

We are all used to vendor lock-in with software systems. We know that once you have chosen an Oracle database, it's almost impossible to move to Microsoft SQL. Once you've chosen Sage, it's hard to move to QuickBooks, and so on. But with a traditional perpetual licence, at least you have a choice to keep the software if you have a disagreement with the provider, which can give you a couple of years to do a smooth transition to an alternative solution.

Why am I ranting about this now?

I'm going to leave the vendor anonymous, because we still like the product. However:

We started using a cloud based SAAS product for one of our core business functions, and after about a year, we realised that the performance and flexibility of the online rental option wasn't quite good enough for us. So we changed to a software rental-based licence and put it on our own cloud servers in AWS. We were happy for a couple of years and even did a few minor customisations of the code in the product (which made updates harder - but did we really need updates, when it worked?).

Then the other day, without warning, the vendor announced they were dropping support for the software rental option. OK, we thought - we were quite happy to use our existing product without support or development for a while. But then they said NO -we had to stop using the software and move to their cloud solution!

Seriously?!

After I calmed down a bit, I made counter offer: "How about I pay 2 years software rental up front, and you give me the unlock key so I can keep the software (like a perpetual licence) and we never need to talk again - but part amicably?"

And they said, "no".

I've never been through a divorce. But this feels like a divorce where I have no legal standing - in fact, they've even taken custody of the cat.

It also got me thinking - you should never feel locked in as a Loadbalancer.org customer.

So with immediate effect, Loadbalancer.org policy is that if you rent our software or buy it through a marketplace like Amazon or Azure, then you have the right to transfer to a perpetual licence at any time.

I hope that puts your mind at ease.

NB - It has always been the case that you can simply transition to a fully open source load balancing implementation such as LVS or HAproxy. Our support team will be happy to advise you on how to do that safely and securely.

Let's look at some examples of things you should watch out for in contracts:

NGINX+

Section 9.1 of the contract:

"Subscriptions shall automatically renew for additional terms of one (1) year each (each a “Renewal Term”) unless either party gives the other party written notice of its intent not to renew at least thirty (30) days prior to the end of the then-current term. The applicable licenses granted in Section 1 of this Agreement automatically terminate upon the termination of the underlying Subscription or this Agreement. Upon the expiration or termination of the underlying Subscription or this Agreement, Customer must deinstall and destroy the Products, all associated Documentation and Confidential Information and certify such de-installation and destruction in writing to Nginx"

Barracuda Network

Product terms
"16 Permission to Use Logo. Customer grants permission to Barracuda to use Customer’s logo on the Barracuda website, or any other marketing material when referring to Customer. Customer will retain all title and rights to such logos."
"7b Renewals. Customer agrees that Barracuda shall have the right to, automatically and without notice, renew and invoice any subscription upon expiration of the subscription. The subscription start date will begin upon expiration of the prior subscription term, and Customer will be responsible for all renewal subscription fees from the previous subscription expiration date."

Software license agreement
"3.2. Subscription Term. The Subscription Term shall renew automatically for a period of the same duration unless Licensee gives written notice of its intent not to renew 15 days before the end of the current Subscription Term. Barracuda will automatically bill Licensee unless notified 15 days before the renewal date."
https://serverfault.com/questions/297815/what-to-do-with-an-out-of-warranty-barracuda-spam-web-filter

Kemp

"If a Customer wishes to purchase Support for a Product where the Support has lapsed on the Product, the Customer will be charged the then-current standard Support fee for the forthcoming year and may be required to pay a pro-rated fee for the time period during which no Support agreement was in effect."

Where is the new kemp licence? What happens when your support runs out? If you downgrade or stop paying support surely the product stops working, as the features are now paid for annually?

Loadbalancer.org

Oops, I found one in our contract! It's never been used, so maybe we should change it?

"13.1 The Technical Support Services shall, unless otherwise terminated as provided in this clause 13, commence on the Commencement Date and shall continue for the Initial Services Support Term and, thereafter, this agreement shall be automatically renewed for successive periods of 12 months (each a Renewal Support Period, unless:
either party notifies the other party of termination, in writing, at least 15 days before the end of the Initial Subscription Term or any Renewal Support Period, in which case this agreement shall terminate upon the expiry of the applicable Initial Subscription Term or Renewal Support Period;"