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Streamlio 2019 Predictions: Major Cloud Platforms Force Open Source Ecosystems and Vendors to Adapt

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2019.  Read them in this 11th annual VMblog.com series exclusive.

Contributed by Karthik Ramasamy, Co-Founder, Streamlio

Major Cloud Platforms Force Open Source Ecosystems and Vendors to Adapt

Open source is playing a critical role in modern IT infrastructure and IT businesses, a fact that's apparent to the major cloud vendors. According to the Linux Foundation, 2018 marked a tipping point for open source investments, with more than $65 billion pouring in through mergers, acquisitions, and IPOs. Now there will be pressure on these commercial vendors to cash in, causing tensions to simmer in the open source community. Recent moves to commercialize open source projects by AWS (AWS App Mesh, Amazon Managed Streaming for Kafka), the IBM acquisition of Red Hat, the VMware acquisition of Heptio, and the recently announced acquisition of Data Artisans by Alibaba are the latest data points illustrating that major vendors are not only looking to more actively play in this space, but potentially looking for ways to capture customer dollars that are shifting toward open source by more broadly co-opting the open source ecosystem.

In fact, there is now rising fear that big cloud providers will undermine open source communities and vendors by launching their own closed cloud services, based on open source, without contributing back to those communities. The fear is that this threatens to undermine not only the smaller independent vendors whose business model relies on monetizing open source projects but also the very nature of open source itself, which depends on the sharing of changes and improvements to a common code base in order to grow and thrive. This fear has led to much hand-wringing in search of alternative solutions, in particular attempts to create more restrictive licenses designed to restrict cloud providers' ability to offer new open source-based services.

However, there is hope that alternatives other than licensing gymnastics could provide a resolution. Recent signs indicate that some big vendors are taking a more nuanced approach, balancing moves that co-opt open source technologies with efforts that help to sustain a vibrant open source ecosystem. For instance, Amazon's open source Firecracker technology shows the company actively engaged in establishing a thriving open source community and ecosystem with potential to extend beyond just AWS products.

Not only big vendors, but also the broader open source ecosystem will need to adapt. Smaller vendors will accelerate their shift to differentiated cloud-based services as the core open source monetization model, competing on the capability and quality of their service. At the same time, open source ecosystems will also put a heavier focus on innovation to maintain differentiated value that prevents big vendors from forking proprietary forks or closed offerings of those services.

The tensions in the relationship between big cloud vendors and open source ecosystems will continue to build in 2019 and beyond, but it will bear watching to see how quickly alternatives become established and to see the extent to which big cloud vendors act as 'good citizens' within open source.

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About the Author

Karthik Ramasy 

Karthik Ramasamy has over two decades experience in real-time data processing, parallel databases, big data infrastructure and networking. He is co-founder at Streamlio, and was engineering manager and technical lead for Real Time Analytics at Twitter, where he co-created Apache Heron, the company's real-time processing engine. 

Published Wednesday, February 06, 2019 7:40 AM by David Marshall
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