Shared source won’t fix the AWS problem

I have a great deal of respect for my colleague Matt Asay, who works for Amazon Web Services and writes week after week about the advantages and virtues of open source. However, this is not to say that I agree with him.

In fact, I would suggest I more commonly disagree with him on a great many things, including his most recent column suggesting “shared source” or license tricks might be a solution for the competitive problem created by Amazon Web Services specifically and cloud computing generally.

I do not just disagree with him. I think that, like his beloved Arsenal, he missed the ball.

Open source motivation

For developers, open source is about access and collaboration. I can start coding without creating a vendor relationship—especially since I may discover a better solution halfway through. Essentially, I do not have to get married to go on a first date. To get my application written, I may need a feature that is missing. I may need a bug fixed. In the worst-case scenario, I can fix it myself. I am also partly immunized from the machinations of vendor alliances and breakups.

With shared code and a shared knowledgebase, I can work with others. I can even work with people that do not work at the same company as I do or even on the same type of application. We help each other by making the code better, making the documentation better, and asking and answering questions.

Vendor motivations are different. The corollary to access is adoption. From an economic standpoint, making the software free to use, inexpensive to adopt, and free to modify is everything a company could do to satisfy market demand. This is why software companies embrace open source licenses.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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