Open source wasn’t supposed to matter in the cloud. After the Free Software Foundation’s failed attempt to rein in network-delivered software services, some wrung their hands and waited for the open source apocalypse. Instead of imploding, however, open source adoption has exploded, with ever more permissive licenses rising to largely eliminate the need to contribute anything back.
And yet, perhaps counterintuitively, many do.
More oddly still, the mega clouds, run by Amazon, Microsoft, and Google, are starting to compete on the basis of open source. No, not open source as in “giving away their core code.” As Hadoop founder Doug Cutting put it to me: “While [their cloud] services may be based on open source, they are generally proprietary.” And by generally he really means “always.”
Yet each of the major clouds clearly views open source as central to their strategies, albeit in very different ways. AWS perhaps markets its open source bonafides the least, yet contributes an impressive amount of code.
The ultimate question, however, is whether any of it will matter. Wearing openness on their cloudy sleeves. Though Microsoft Azure has been positioning itself as a friend to open source for years, it’s really Google Cloud that has made the most fuss over open source recently. The recent Google Next event was an open source love-in, following on the heels of Google joining the Cloud Foundry Foundation back in December (not to mention a serious corporate-wide commitment to actively contribute to and support open source communities).
As Redmonk analyst Fintan Ryan picked up, Google Next was rife with “messaging around being community players, working heavily with existing communities, [and] building new ones.” Why does this matter? According to Ryan’s colleague, James Governor, Google’s open source outreach threatens AWS because…