Open source made the cloud in its image

“The cloud was built for running open source,” Matt Wilson once told me, “which is why open source [has] worked so well in the cloud.”

While true, there’s something more fundamental that open source offers the cloud. As one observer put it, “The whole intellectual foundation of open interfaces and combinatorial single-purpose tools is pretty well ingrained in cloud.” That approach is distinctly open source, which in turn owes much to the Unix mentality that early projects like Linux embraced.

Hence, the next time you pull together different components to build an application on Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, AWS, or another cloud, realize that the reason you can do this is because the open source ethos permeates the cloud.

Thank you, Unix

Open source has become so commonplace today that we are apt to forget its origins. While it would be an overstatement to suggest that Unix is wholly responsible for what open source became, many of the open source pioneers came from a Unix background, and it shows.

Here’s a summary of the Unix philosophy by Doug McIlroy, the creator of Unix pipes:

  1. Make each program do one thing well….
  2. Expect the output of every program to become the input to another, as yet unknown, program….
  3. Design and build software, even operating systems, to be tried early, ideally within weeks. Don’t hesitate to throw away the clumsy parts and rebuild them.

Sound familiar? From this ideological parentage it’s not hard to see where open source gets its preference for modularity, transparency, composability, etc. It’s also not much of a stretch to see where the open source-centric clouds are picking up their approach to microservices

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