Does Snowflake mean the end of open source?

The Snowflake IPO was a big deal, and not merely because of the company’s enormous valuation.

In 2013 Cloudera co-founder Mike Olson confidently (and accurately) declared “a stunning and irreversible trend in enterprise infrastructure.” That trend? “No dominant platform-level software infrastructure has emerged in the last 10 years in closed-source, proprietary form.” Snowflake, a cloud-based enterprise data platform, may spell the end of that run. 

Sure, we had Splunk, but Spunk squeaked through the hypothesis police before open source had found its feet, as Lightspeed partner Gaurav Gupta told me. MySQL, Apache Hadoop, MongoDB, Apache Spark… all of them (at least initially) open source.

But now… Snowflake. Is Snowflake a snowflake? Or is the era of open source infrastructure coming to a close?

Closing up shop?

In part the answer to that question depends on just how fiercely you’re prepared to defend the underlying assumption. After all, it’s simply not the case that all “dominant platform-level software infrastructure” is open source. This isn’t really to dispute Olson’s central thesis, because it’s absolutely true that the bulk of enterprise infrastructure has trended toward open source over the past 10 to 20 years.

As Gordon Haff puts it, “You can certainly construct a narrative for the infrastructure being heavily driven by open source: Most NoSQL, Hadoop, Kafka, Spark, Ceph, Jupyter, etc. But a lot in the space isn’t as well: lots of cloud services, Tableau, Splunk, etc.” And Snowflake, of course.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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