Why fragmentation is a sign of innovation

The great problem about working with Open Source cloud technology is that the benefits are clearly recognised – there is no shortage of organisations willing to invest in supercharging their performance using cloud platforms.

The disadvantage is that not all businesses find themselves in a position to exploit cloud from within their teams. Many organisations have access to developer talent who are tasked with creating custom apps, but soon discover that a mature corporate infrastructure and an encyclopaedia’s worth of governance stunts their freedom and ability to achieve Open Source-grade scalability, flexibility and robustness.

To the rescue
So what happens? Major cloud service providers come to the rescue, creating their own flavours of Open Source cloud. This gives us offerings which combine community Open Source projects and platforms with proprietary offerings that are hardened for enterprise. The customer gets a service plan and a sense of reassurance that comes with the reduced risk associated with large enterprise vendors.

When open = shut

Whilst fixing an issue on one level, this addition of proprietary code undermines one of the key principles (and benefits) of Open Source – that you should be able to seamlessly ‘lift and shift’ your workloads. Having seen this already happen in the IaaS space with OpenStack – I wonder if it will also happen in PaaS. Will we see Cloud Foundry becoming fragmented as it’s made enterprise ready? One indicator could be Red Hat deciding not to play – as illustrated in this impassioned blog post.

There is a certain sense of inevitability that as soon as exciting developments are made, major service providers see revenue and seek the most rapid way to exploit it – whether that’s through acquisition, partnership or plagiarism. But whilst traditional major vendors will grab headlines when they add an Open Source flavour to their portfolio, the more interesting story is to be found elsewhere.

Fragmentation feeds innovation

For every major service provider hurriedly adding functionality or ‘stickiness’ in order to keep their customers for longer, there are thousands of fired-up developer communities working on projects that outpace even the most innovative of traditional organisations.

Just one example is the exciting prospect of container-based PaaS solutions which will offer developers the freedom to create whilst maintaining application portability, and it’s only the tip of the iceberg. I think fragmentation can feed innovation and I’m always on the look-out for what the major vendors will want a piece of next – if you’ve seen something exciting, then let’s talk.

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