Has the cloud been good for open source?

I was introduced to open source, as a concept, when working with some very talented developers years ago. They all had “free software” (that’s what open source was called at the time)—simple utilities that they gave away for free, code and all.

The term “open source” replaced free software after a time, really to rebrand this concept to reflect a more commercially minded group that looked for the commercial possibilities in this emerging movement. This gave birth to Linux, MySQL, MongoDB, Puppet, etc. (all still widely used today) and the rise of enterprises that prefer, or at least use, open source software.

The attraction is more than it just being free. Those who choose open source technology do so to remove the risk of some vendors going under or being acquired by a company that may pull support, to name only a few negative outcomes. If this happens, they can take the code and move forward on their own.

Those already in the public clouds understand that open source software is part of the offering. There are two flavors: first, a third-party software system that runs in the cloud. Second, some version of open source that has been rebuilt and rebranded to be a cloud-native offering but is functionally based and dependent on the open source code tree. 

Although there’s no charge for the software licenses, you do have to pay for the use of cloud resources, such as storage and compute. This has been driving some of the open source fanboys a bit nuts, considering that they are religious about free software being, well, free.

Moreover, another complaint from the open source community is that the cloud providers are leveraging open source software for financial gain but not actually adding value to the open source systems or supporting next-generation development of those systems. This gets to the heart of the issue: Public cloud providers are revenue motivated, and the open source communities are largely community motivated. Can these end goals coexist?

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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