The cloud is killing open source.

6 min readJan 3, 2022


Is Open source dead? Nope, the plot is something more sinister.

What prompted this writing?

AWS had forked off Elastic Search[10] and now competes with Redis[11] both of whom were marketplace partners. Although it is debatable whether Elasticsearch was truly open, with most of its APM(Application performance monitoring) stack components being closed source, the problem is something even more nuanced. Please spare a thought for these hapless open source projects as you read on.

First, a history lesson..

Back in the halcyon days where FSF(Free software foundation read RMS- Richard Stallman) came up with Open source licenses, the idea was to battle against large corporations (read Microsoft) who were militant in making everything closed source and locking people to their proprietary stack. Infamously Microsoft went so far as to creating a competing version of java with windows specific optimizations that removed the whole point of platform independence from the Java language. They were very open in their stance against Linux which they considered to be a thorn in their flesh. Stallman[4],Apache Software Foundation and the FSF guys came up with software licensing models that fell into different brackets based on your definition of openness all the way from completely permissive (Apache/MIT) to copyleft(GPL). [1]

So what is my point?
My pet peeve is that Cloud providers should not be allowed to set up PAAS services. How is this different from Microsoft pushing IE as the default browser. Microsoft owned the operating system, so we were aghast at them also owning the browser citing lack of choice. [2]

Why are you not revulsed.

If AWS owns the Infrastructure, why are we not revulsed by them pushing their own platform services on top of their infrastructure.
Also Why are we not revulsed when they keep feeding off open source projects (Redis, Elasticsearch , Presto, Kubernetes) and offering them as their own. At least GCP contributes to open source and keeps pushing its partners instead of cutting them completely. “Microsoft loves open source” -Not quite. They just realised that they can’t compete with linux on costs or with GCP and AWS on breadth of services and portability if they restrict themselves to Windows.

Although the end result for corporations other than these platforms is lower costs and better interoperability, the people who are hurt most is the developer community. Why contribute to envoy and Istio when it is the purview of the cloud providers. Why do Jagger, Promethus and Grafana when you can do CloudWatch. At least APM is still something not dominated by the Cloud providers.(Newrelic, datadog, dynatrace still rule the roost)

Redis and Elasticsearch went ahead with protecting themselves to move to restrictive licenses to protect themselves from the cloud providers with much of the community backing the clouds and turning a deaf ear to their concerns.[4]

Also the security issues found in open source software be it the heardbleed openssl issue or even the the recent log4j library have done little to advance it’s cause prompting even Randall Munroe to take potshots. [7]

What about Facebook?
Facebook despite its shaky privacy credentials contributes better to the open source than anyone else. Pytorch and React are as of this writing are as good as ( if not better than)Tensorflow and Angular.

Dangers no one talks about?

No one talks about the case if someone potentially hacked your account and used it to send phishing emails, you could potentially get locked out. People have reported gcp as not responding to repeated emails after their accounts had been locked out after being hacked. (Although I suspect it could also be because of Google’s famously inefficient service rather than any malice on their part. )

Amazon has been known to copy products which are bestsellers on its ecommerce website , a famous example that gets cited is Juno ovens [5].Who is to say that they don’t do the same with their cloud offerings to identify businesses to get into.(It is with good reason that top tier retailers tend to shy away from AWS for the cloud, popular cases in point being Lowes, Wallmart and Tesco.)

Cloud offerings are not a silver bullet.Aws has already suffered 3 outages this month.

In a nutshell, the cloud providers are the Microsoft of this age.

So what should we do?
Instead of fixing this as a (European style) monopolistic practice; we are instead debating whether open source is broken. Let us petition these cloud providers to ensure that they don’t work beyond the Infrastructure. One other suggestion was to break off the cloud services division as separate companies in their own right. Why should Amazon own AWS? Although this alleviates the problem somewhat, what people miss is that AWS is a monopoly in its own right.

Let it be a fair battle game. In the same vein that we don’t want to be entrenched with Internet Explorer/ Edge we do not want entrenchment of the cloud platform services. This will promote competition where independent vendors for platforms become the norm rather than the exception.

Snowflake is an oft-cited example of a competitor in data warehousing/lake housing. At every re invent AWS introduces services to beat its rivals (read partners). Because of its entrenchment it can offer services that its rivals cannot. For example federated querying with Athena across the AWS ecosystem and tight integration with its existing Machine learning services is something that snowflake cannot compete with lest they start to build capabilities in this area.

Some companies like Palo Alto have started to realize this and have grown inorganically by acquiring companies across the security stack to end up being a complete security solutions provider including firewalls, CSPM,CWPP,DLP and a whole lot of 3-4 letter acronyms we have not heard of yet.[8] Snowflake has started doing the same.

Let the clouds build the infrastructure but not the Platforms. Is it lobbying by the cloud providers that people don’t write about this often. If the cloud providers sees an independent competitor all they have to do is give it a shitload of money to silence it for raising any of these concerns. [9]

Eric Raymond once said “Every good work of software starts by scratching a developer’s personal itch.”[6] Now every work of software (good or not) starts by scratching the functionality that the customers of cloud providers need. Where they start by scratching a developer’s personal itch they end up with being monopolized by the cloud providers.

[1] The definition of permissive is completely subjective as I don’t want to be drawn into a holy war between what open source actually means.

The defining feature of the GPL family of licenses is the concept of copyleft, which states (roughly) that if you take some GPL-licensed code and modify it or build upon it, you must also make your modifications/extensions (known as a “derivative”) freely available under the same license. This has the effect that the GPL’ed source code cannot be incorporated into closed-source software.



[4] Some people even say that Satoshi Nakomoto is the new age RMS but that’s a different problem unrelated to the cloud monopoly.





[9] GCP has been acquiring so many companies and growing inorganically that parts of it feel like cobbled up pieces rather than a single platform. (firebase being a case in point). It has acquired looker, apigee , alooma and so many other companies that I have lost count.






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