On the heels of the opening of Cloud Development Center, it seems timely to revisit one of our founding beliefs: the embrace of, and contribution to, open source technologies.

We have seen open-source win in the enterprise again and again - especially as it relates to cloud computing and new web-scale architectures.  Why?

  • Many developers, rather than few publishers.  The creativity of the masses is fundamental to open source; with a diverse set of creators, a diverse set of technologies is the result.  Some of them are bound to stick.
  • No “innovators dilemma.”  While traditional vendors are focused on existing revenue streams, new players and individual developers are free to experiment without cannibalizing an existing product.
  • Low cost of failure.  Developers can download bits, and start experimenting.  If something doesn’t work out, the only loss is time.  With a licensing model, there are usually more complex business terms involved in even trying a new product or tool.
  • New business models focused on usage and support, not licensing.  The companies that have successfully commercialized open source tend monetize “customer success” and “win-win” scenarios instead of a multi-year licensing model that is likely to favor the publisher.
  • More options. Open source doesn’t always mean you are free from lock-in, but it does give you more choices.

Given our roots as a developer-led, bootstrapped startup – the CenturyLink Cloud team is deeply committed to open source.  It’s used extensively in our platform, for example:

  • Couchbase (underlying database for account/user data)
  • Elastic Search (search)
  • HA proxy (load balancing)
  • Riak (object storage)
  • Logstash (monitoring)
  • jQuery (UI)
  • Bootstrap (UI)
  • RabbitMQ (messaging)
  • Docker (DevOps)
  • Chef (expansion and configuration of our infrastructure footprint)
  • Github (source control)
  • Our engineering team has been involved with a number of open source projects, including:

  • The creation and ongoing sponsorship of Iron Foundry, the .NET extension of Cloud Foundry
  • Thor, a Mac OS client for Cloud Foundry development
  • X-Unit / N-unit
  • BOSH support for CenturyLink Cloud, the deployment tool for Cloud Foundry
  • Panamax for Docker, from CenturyLink Labs
  • So what’s next for open source in the enterprise?

    The universe of open source tools is expanding. Most enterprises at this point have production systems running on the LAMP stack, several cloud-native apps running NoSQL, and some type of Hadoop deployment.  As Gartner notes, “every company needs to be an IT company” – but does each enterprise need to become an expert in deciding which tools to embrace? This decision becomes easier with time – but the competitive advantage diminishes, too.

    That’s why a big part of the future will be platforms that aggregate the most powerful open-source tools into easily consumable services.  Enterprises focusing on Cloud Foundry and the Docker ecosystem can reap many advantages of open source without the pain of sifting through each new tool as it comes along.  And as the new winners are proven out, these platforms are highly likely to built in support for them, simplifying the “path to productivity” for each new innovation.

    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

    Open source software was born, in part, out of frustration from commercial alternatives. Gandhi quote above seems like an appropriate summary, particularly of open source adoption within the enterprise. And now that the era of cloud is upon us, we’ll see more and more of this in the years ahead.