Does Snowflake mean the end of open source?

The Snowflake IPO was a large deal, and not basically since of the company’s enormous valuation.

In 2013 Cloudera co-founder Mike Olson confidently (and correctly) declared “a breathtaking and irreversible development in enterprise infrastructure.” That development? “No dominant system-stage application infrastructure has emerged in the previous 10 decades in shut-supply, proprietary type.” Snowflake, a cloud-centered enterprise info system, might spell the stop of that run. 

Sure, we experienced Splunk, but Spunk squeaked through the speculation police just before open up supply experienced observed its ft, as Lightspeed spouse Gaurav Gupta informed me. MySQL, Apache Hadoop, MongoDB, Apache Spark… all of them (at least at first) open up supply.

But now… Snowflake. Is Snowflake a snowflake? Or is the era of open up supply infrastructure coming to a shut?

Closing up store?

In section the answer to that query depends on just how fiercely you’re prepared to defend the underlying assumption. Right after all, it is basically not the case that all “dominant system-stage application infrastructure” is open up supply. This is not truly to dispute Olson’s central thesis, since it is completely accurate that the bulk of enterprise infrastructure has trended toward open up supply around the earlier 10 to 20 decades.

As Gordon Haff puts it, “You can unquestionably assemble a narrative for the infrastructure remaining closely pushed by open up supply: Most NoSQL, Hadoop, Kafka, Spark, Ceph, Jupyter, and so forth. But a large amount in the place is not as properly: plenty of cloud companies, Tableau, Splunk, and so forth.” And Snowflake, of program.

Although you’d hardly ever guess it from the energetic proselytizing of yesteryear, builders have hardly ever been overly spiritual about open up supply. The purpose for that “stunning” development is basically that open up supply designed it much easier for builders to get their work opportunities performed many thanks to higher-high quality, easily accessible open up supply info infrastructure. There are, of program, other advantages, such as the communities that usually accompany open up supply assignments, coupled with a wish to have extra granular regulate of one’s application stack. But in the long run open up supply has gained since it enables builders to “get —- performed.”

Which is why, for example, you are going to obtain builders joyful to use open up supply application like Apache Airflow to load info into their proprietary Snowflake info system. It is not cognitive dissonance. It is pragmatism.

The change to managed companies

Talking of such pragmatism, Tom Barber implies that the change to managed cloud companies fairly negates “people’s curiosity in open up supply… since with SaaS you’re not spending for licenses but for a service, which alterations the contemplating fairly.” Right after all, he proceeds, “Open supply meant you didn’t shell out for licenses but you even now experienced to shell out somebody internal or external to put in it, tune it, run it…. Most men and women can apt/yum put in MySQL but tuning it requires in-depth awareness.”

Or let’s express that yet another way, as Redmonk analyst James Governor does: “Cloud is a greater distribution and packaging system than open up supply at any time was…. Usefulness is the killer application. Managed companies get.” Or, as Olson himself recommended to me,

I even now imagine that open up supply application supplies strategic advantage. But “elimination of friction” is not the differentiator it seemed a ten years in the past. Smart cloud folks uncovered that lesson proprietary infra in the cloud is tremendous easy to get and use. 

That’s not to say open up supply is irrelevant. Much from it. “Open supply is not a business enterprise product but is a wonderful way to establish application, establish have confidence in, and foster group,” Governor proceeds.

That “great way to establish software” also applies to SaaS distributors like Snowflake. Even though companies like Snowflake may well not be open up supply, they are actively working with open up supply underneath the hood, as Gordon Haff implies. For example, Snowflake relies on open up supply FoundationDB as “a essential section of our architecture [since it] has allowed us to establish some truly amazing and differentiating attributes.”

A Whitesource evaluation in 2019 observed that 99 p.c of application incorporates open up supply. Snowflake, in this respect, is no snowflake.

Open supply, in sum, even now issues. A large amount. 

Open supply underneath the hood

But for would-be potential buyers of companies like Snowflake, open up supply may well not be the most important attraction. As Ken Horn posits, info, not supply code, demands to be the “first-class citizen” for a little something like Snowflake. And “once on cloud, the entire open up supply application detail is a bit :shrug:.”

It is not “shrug” for Snowflake and other distributors who might pick to produce info warehousing and other such companies, since open up supply affords them the possibility to establish on a wealthy ecosystem of open up supply foundational setting up blocks. But for the would-be potential buyers, they just have to have “to get —- performed,” and this might mean they don’t want to execute the spade perform at times associated with open up supply.

So is Olson’s 2013 declaration erroneous? No, but perhaps we can rephrase it: No dominant system-stage application infrastructure has emerged in the previous 10 20 decades in shut-supply, proprietary type that is not possibly licensed as open up supply application or that closely depends upon open up supply application.”

Examine extra about open up supply:

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

Rosa G. Rose

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