Do developers really care about open source?

FaunaDB founder Evan Weaver has a crazy thought. Even as open source projects like Linux and Kubernetes continue to thrive, he suggests that maybe, just maybe, “As long as you give developers an API that’s open and a cost model that works for them then they don’t care [about open source]. They just don’t want to operate anything.” Cloud, in other words, not code.

It’s a bold thought, and not an unreasonable one. When I floated this idea with a range of industry heavyweights, however, they pushed back for a number of different reasons. Among them? Well, according to Guarav Gupta, an investor with Lightspeed (and former Elastic and Splunk product executive), “There is a deep amount of developer love and appreciation and almost like an addiction” for open source, something developers don’t feel for an API.

[ Also on InfoWorld: What comes after Kubernetes? ]

Is there a way to have the convenience of APIs without losing developers’ sense of belonging for open source communities? The answer seems to be yes, but it’s a bit complicated to get there.

Don’t forget the data

For Aurélien Georget, co-founder and chief product officer at Strapi, which offers an open source headless CMS, one of the enduring draws of open source isn’t really about code, though sometimes that’s simply a necessity. For example, in Strapi’s case many customers want to heavily customize their CMS. In this instance, a cloud service doesn’t meet their needs. They need the code.

Or even if they don’t want to tinker with the code, data drives them to it: “Our users aren’t interested in ownership of their code but of their data. For data privacy reasons, [or] sometimes from a legal point of view (e.g. banks, insurances, public administration, etc.),” they need to run their code — and keep their data — within their own data center. This isn’t to suggest that Weaver is wrong to insist on an API-centric approach, however: “Every solution should be API-oriented,” Georget concurs, as “It lets the developers be creative, imagine new use cases, and innovate.”

Even so, Georget acknowledges, “Being independent and having 100 percent ownership of our data has a price.” It would perhaps be more convenient to use a cloud service but this simply isn’t always possible for certain classes of application or customer, he says.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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