Amazon Web Services
Amazon is a company that has used a platform strategy to great effect to become
dominant first in books then general retail and now cloud. It encourages third parties to base their businesses on its platforms and thus expands its reach. When Amazon launched AWS a decade ago, no doubt the same principles were very much on its mind. Rather than adopting another tech company's proprietary systems, it started with Linux and Xen and built up from there. Linux, Xen and other open source projects remain the core technologies behind AWS, which is now the largest public cloud platform, and by some considerable margin.
The pioneering work of the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008 on the decentralised maths-based currency Bitcoin - and more specifically its supporting cryptography and ledger blockchain - introduced a genuinely new paradigm for distributed computing. A blockchain is a 'trustless' immutable ledger over which no single party has party has control. Data can only be added to it, never amended or deleted. It is an area of great interest to banks and privacy activists alike, and may also prove useful for IoT applications. Bitcoin has also spawned hundreds of other crypto-currencies, some of which are the basis of the internal economies in the new peer-to-peer networks that are starting to appear.
The technologies synonymous with big data pretty are pretty much all open-source projects. There's Hadoop, which was open-sourced by Yahoo in 2009 in order to get more developers on board, and the Hortonworks distribution is comprised only of open source projects from the Apache stable, which remains a breeding ground for new software in this field, including notably Spark. NoSQL databases Cassandra, Redis, MongoDB, Basho, Couchbase and numerous others are open source, as are data integration technologies like Talend and Pentaho.
There are exceptions of course, not only among older firms like SAS and Oracle, but database vendor Marklogic also prefers the closed source route. It's also a fact that many open source providers add proprietary enterprise features to the basic community edition as a way of earning a buck. Nevertheless, it's doubtful if the explosion of analytical power could have ever happened in a closed environment.
Microsoft loves Linux
In the past Microsoft was openly hostile to the open source movement, with CEO Steve Ballmer once memorably calling it "a cancer", but cloud computing, especially hybrid cloud, has changed the rules of the game. It is no longer possible for one company to monopolise the underlying computing platform, as Microsoft once did with Windows, making it difficult for rival operating systems to co-exist with it.
Microsoft's decision to enable users to run Linux on it's Azure cloud platform dates back to 2012 when it added support for Ubuntu, Suse and CentOS distributions - having discovered that business users of Amazon's EC2 were deploying Linux instances in greater numbers than Windows ones.
At about the same time Microsoft forged a partnership with Hadoop start up Hortonworks to certify the Hortonworks Data Platform (HDP) for Azure. Nowadays any number of open source services are available on Azure, and Microsoft supports many thousands of open source projects on GitHub - and indeed develops much of its own code there too.
OpenStack is an example of another key feature of the open source picture - collaboration between competing vendors. Originally created by Rackspace and NASA in 2010 it now features contributions from hundreds of vendors including HP, Red Hat, Intel, Dell, AT&T and IBM, as well as thousands of individual developers. The fact that it has support from so many major technology companies is significant, in that it is designed, by virtue of its APIs, to be as platform-agnostic as possible, enabling it to scale out over a multitude of disparate environments. It also suggests that the vendors realise that it is a mistake to paint themselves into their own proprietary corner when it comes to something as big as cloud computing.
Docker is another open source project that's been making waves in
the software development world. Docker and other containers allow applications to run on any Linux server, without the need to provision virtual machines.
Docker makes use of features of the Linux kernel to create containers that hold the application and all of its dependencies. These "containerised" applications can be transported from Linux machine to Linux machine allowing the applications to function without any further tweaking being necessary. As well as saving on virtualisation software this sits very nicely with the microservices approach to software development.
Kubernetes is also worthy of mention, enabling the deployment management and scaling of containerised workloads.
"Kubernetes puts you in control of your cloud's elasticity in a vendor neutral way," said Mawdsley.
As with big data, it's hard to imagine DevOps without open source. The companies that kicked off the movement like Chef, Ansible and Puppet, continuous integration project Jenkins, and issue tracking tool Jira are all open source and widely used. In fact at this point this feature risks becoming a long list of hundreds of tools and plugins so universal has open source software and its associated platforms become.
From its genesis in the intellectual musings of visionary thinkers and the fevered tinkerings of hobbyists, open source is now quite simply the way software is done. The world's biggest companies, not just the Googles and Amazons but Bosch, GE, Accenture and many others are all heavily invested in the open source way of doing things. The wheel has turned full circle.
Next stop: open source hardware.
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