The future of open source software in the cloud world

Open source was once the counter-movement to the large software providers such as Oracle, IBM or Microsoft, whose business model used to be to create software and sell it as licences to the clientele. Thus, open source is not only the struggle from closed against open, but also from centralised power to voluntarily organised decentralisation, and likewise from large monopoly-driven organisations to software created by free individuals. Or in short: from good against evil.


For many users, open software became free software - this was also a strategic interest in the great game of power. For example, IBM tried to break the Microsoft Office monopoly by suggesting to companies and private users that open software was cheaper than that of the big monopolists and other software companies trying to get money for their work.
This is the image that companies that make their software openly available now have to disabuse their customers of. In the case of many types of (business) software, open no longer means free or for nothing. Often you find community editions that are made available for free, but you have to pay for support and special functions.


What is open is a value in itself. The term stands for a state of mind of granting insight to the other party and to society. This has a value not only for security software through the possibility of peer review, but also for private and business users. This is because they can be sure that the data is processed carefully by the software and that no misuse is made of the data processed by the software.
For many people, openness now also stands for transparency in business dealings - for a business principle based on trust.
The big providers such as Facebook and Google noticed this years ago. Facebook, for example, not only puts its concepts and methods for operating data centres "open source", but also a large number of - also very strategic - software projects. It's a similar story at Google: "Everyone benefits" is the opinion there.


But wait - weren't the big players (monopolists) once the opponents of the original open source movement? Why can monopolists afford to share their hard-earned intellectual property with others?
It is not the case that software (alone) eats up the world. A piece of software operated in the form of a service and used by many determines the rules of the (economic) world from today and in the future.
Even if the code is freely available, can be viewed by all, freely copied and incorporated into other software of one's own, a "normal" company simply does not stand a chance in the context of the operational and executive efficiency of Facebook or Google. The software code alone is simply not enough in this day and age. We live in the as a service world. (Moreover, the big monopolists naturally do not make all their code openly available).
In future, we should therefore distinguish between open software from "normal" companies and open software from cloud monopolists.


A look into the future is exciting: if software can only be offered efficiently as an as-a-service solution in the future, because multiple implementations by different service providers are ultimately too inefficient, what will happen to the large open software projects such as Kopano, Next-Cloud or Seafile?
According to the current concepts of DevOps and Continuous Deployment, code development and operation belong inseparably together. And the large cloud business models of SalesForce, ServiceNow or Google prove the power of the idea.
There, open concepts like a LibreOffice or Seafile simply don't get their horsepower on the road because they have to have their software implemented and operated by many distributors and integrators. Unlike in the cloud-as-a-service models, there are also no network effects and synergies from many installations from which both the users and the provider can derive an advantage.


Perhaps containerisation and the associated total standardisation of operations is one way open source software can survive in the future. But then the software providers would have to build in aggregation functions for network effects. But these, in turn, would attack the many integrators who stick by today's open source software providers and help distribute the projects.
Perhaps, however, the open source community will have to come to terms with putting its code in the public cloud in future and developing open operating concepts for it. But then open source projects would no longer be a refuge for cloud sceptics.
So a lot will (have to) happen in the open source world in the future. I am not the only one who still finds the open source idea of openness exciting and I am convinced that the concepts behind it will and must have a future in an open cloud and as a service world without monopolies.

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