There are many great reasons to use open-source software. Avoiding vendor lock-in perhaps one of the weakest. It’s not that lock-in isn’t a real concern, but it’s generally not a CIO’s first consideration. The first consideration is getting stuff done.
Which is why Rackspace CEO Lanham Napier is almost certainly wrong to castigate Amazon over proprietary lock-in. Not wrong because he’s incorrect. Wrong because it’s an ineffective strategy.
It’s also why Red Hat’s Gordon Haff is likely wrong to take on VMware using the same argument. VMware’s Matthew Lodge tweaked his open-source peers over the “I’m the most open” discussion, arguing that “While the ugly sisters were squabbling, customers were getting on with business and choosing their Cinderella as VMware.” What irked Haff most, however, was Lodge’s follow-on comment: “Openness is not about how you write software, it’s about what you allow your customers to be able to do.”
.@mjasay The key is that phrase “you *allow* your customers to do.” IOW the vendor, in this case VMware, calls the shots
— Gordon Haff (@ghaff) April 17, 2012
He has a very good point, but again, it doesn’t really go very far, which is why Red Hat for years has emphasized value, not fluffy intangibles in its field marketing. Yes, the company will talk about vendor lock-in for its high-level marketing messages, but the salespeople walking in to talk with a CIO? They’re talking about performance-to-cost ratios over competitors like IBM and HP. When it comes to talking business, Red Hat is all business.
And rightly so.
When a CIO reports to the CEO, she can’t point to “but look at all the freedom I gave us.” She knows she’s going to have to deliver tangible results. Which is why ex-JBoss veteran (and Cloudbees board member) Bob Bickel is right to point to alternative ways to be open in the cloud:
@mjasay Sure there is open source software underneath, but few people will care. There will be new ways of doing open in the cloud.
— bobbickel (@bobbickel) April 16, 2012
Again, this isn’t to fully deprecate the value of open source. But it is to suggest that there are various ways to define openness in cloud computing, and source code is just one aspect among several, and perhaps not even the most important one.
At Nodeable, we feel that a nuanced approach to openness is the right one. We use some great open-source software at the heart of our cloud analytics service, including Storm and Hadoop, but we don’t yet see how it would make much sense (or be of any real use) to anyone to open source our platform. We do, however, see some value in open-sourcing our agent technology, and are exploring this. Most importantly to us, however, is the ability for our users to easily get their data into and out of our analytics service. And we do.
Data, source code, APIs, etc. All factor into the new world of open.