Monday, April 22, 2013

Is Cloud the death of open source?

Over the last few years I've been hearing from various quarters that Cloud (specifically PaaS) doesn't need or work well with open source. At least what some of these people mean is that business models that have worked well for non-PaaS open source don't necessarily work for PaaS. I think the jury is still out on that one. However, if you look around at PaaS implementations out there, or even further up and down the stack to include IaaS and SaaS, it's clear that open source is playing a major role. Whether it's OpenShift, OpenStack. MySQL, Linux or a plethora of other components, it's hard to find environments that aren't built on open source in one way or another. (Excluding closed source companies, of course!)

Now why do I mention this? Because I'm just back from JUDCon Brazil and this topic of conversation came up with some of the attendees. In fact they were suggesting that several of the most significant waves in software over the past few years and into the next few years, are fuelled by the innovation within disparate open source communities. When you look at cloud, mobile, ubiquitous computing etc. it's hard to disagree!

1 comment:

Manik Surtani said...

I agree that cloud relies heavily on open source *today*. And possibly for several years to come. But as cloud providers consolidate (remember, cloud is all about economies of scale) things may change.

Lets imagine a world where there are, say, 5 major cloud providers, giving you all the *aaS that you need, in every flavour that a developer or business could ever want. The natural differentiation from that point on is for each of the 5 vendors to be faster, more efficient, cheaper, etc. This will lead to custom hardware (we already see this with Google and Facebook), which in turn will lead to custom variants of the open source stack used today. Again, we see this with Google (custom Linux, custom MyQSL) and since these all run hosted services, there is no pressure (nor any desire) to share any of these customisations.

Extrapolate this even further and we may well see these 5 major cloud providers running variants of Linux, etc., that are so heavily customised and loaded with proprietary enhancements, that you might argue that all progress from this point on will be proprietary.

At least on the server-side. Open source will still live on on the client - browsers, JS libraries, Android. And the few thick-client operating systems that may still be lurking about. :)

- M