Why Open Source Is Eating The World

In 2011 Marc Andreessen explained in his monumental essay “why software is eating the world“. This originally controversial statement is by now a well-established fact of life. So what the next step in the evolution? I argue it’s open source.

Open Source Is Eating The World

Yes, you’ve heard it right. Open source is no longer just a topic for computer geeks running techie experiments and for bootstrapped startups looking to save some bucks. Open source has become mainstream. You don’t have to take my word for it, just take a look at this year’s multi-billion dollar mergers and acquisitions (M&A):

  • IBM is acquiring Red Hat, the first open source company to cross $1B revenues, for $34 billion.
  • Cloudera and Hortonworks, the vendors behind open source Hadoop that started the Big Data Analytics wave, are merging in a $5.2 billion deal.
  • Microsoft acquired GitHub, the popular version control system, for $7.5 billion.
  • Salesforce acquired MuleSoft, a popular open source messaging and integration middleware platform, for $6.5 billion in May. Interestingly enough, last week Salesforce made a strategic investment in Docker, another popular open source vendor for containers, alongside MuleSoft’s announced partnership with Docker. Could that mark Salesforce’s next major open source move?

ibm-red-hat-cloudy-380-1 (1)

Mergers and acquisitions, however, are not enough to make such a paradigm shift. As a young engineer I grew up programming in Java, using Solaris Unix and Open Office, all of which are open source software by Sun Microsystems. Then Oracle acquired Sun in 2009. Has Oracle changed its core DNA following that acquisition? Not exactly.

It takes more than just commercial M&A.
The big players need to embrace and commit to open source culture.
And indeed I see that happening in an increasing pace:

Microsoft is a great example: As I pointed out already back in 2015, Microsoft has made a strategic choice to embrace open source. Just last month Corporate Vice President Nat Friedman, who was recently appointed as GitHub CEO, made waves when he tweeted the open sourcing of Microsoft’s patent portfolio:

Microsoft is pledging our massive patent portfolio – over 60,000 patents – to Linux and open source by joining OIN this morning. If you’re looking for signs that we are serious about being the world’s largest open source company, look no further.

Another example from last month is IBM, which pledged its commitment to open source as an integral part of Red Hat’s acquisition:

With this acquisition, IBM will remain committed to Red Hat’s open governance, open source contributions, participation in the open source community and development model, and fostering its widespread developer ecosystem. In addition, IBM and Red Hat will remain committed to the continued freedom of open source, via such efforts as Patent Promise, GPL Cooperation Commitment, the Open Invention Network and the LOT Network.

The modern giants, who were born into the open source era, started off with open source as an integral part of their development culture. For example Kubernetes, the leading containers orchestration platform and the 2nd most active project on GitHub, originated in a project which Google open sourced to the Linux Foundation. Now you’d find even Google’s bitter rivals collaborating there. That’s the beauty of open source movement.

Even the traditional Telecommunications industry, which tends to lag behind IT and trust heavily on standardization bodies, have come to embrace open source as their new and agile way forward, reaching dozens of open source projects under the Linux Foundation alone. A prime example is Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP), which itself is a unification of open sources from east and west.

Open source movement is not just limited to software. I’m not going to delve into it in this post, but there are great examples of hardware open source, such as Open Compute Project backed by Facebook (which initiated it), Google and others.

Open source is here. Leading vendors embrace it; Enterprises and governments use it; Cloud providers and system integrators offer services for it; Communities innovate on it.

Open Source Is Eating The World.

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