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Why the Cloud Wars Have Yet to be Won

The cloud computing industry is still young relative to the history of computing, but increasingly, speculators are in a rush to declare a “winner.” Of course, based on certain metrics it’s possible to identify leaders. But we certainly don’t think the game is over, and we were pleased to see that Charlie Babcock of InformationWeek agrees with us. This week, in a piece called “Cloud Oligarchy? Not Even Close” he wrote that people may be jumping the gun when they say a few big vendors will dominate the cloud computing industry just as they did in the last era of computing innovation. Babcock thinks the cloud is different:

For one, it’s dominated more than we realize by the use of open source code and low cost of entry-level, commodity parts. Second, cloud computing isn’t one thing, even though we keep referring to it as single entity. The essential thing about the cloud is that it’s a new way of distributing compute cycles to end users that takes advantage of the network and commodity equipment. If the cloud were one thing, you’d be able to tell me what constitutes a cloud data center. From looking at them, I conclude there is no blueprint. They are simply the latest data centers that we can build that take advantage of commodity servers and low-cost operations.

In an industry where there’s no blueprint and lots of room for innovation, smaller, more nimble companies have some advantages. One of those advantages, Babcocks says, is open source developers. In fact, he thinks that no company will be truly successful without them. We’re clearly in agreement – open source technologies are a big part of our culture – including SmartOS, ZFS, DTrace and of course Node.js. In our opinion, open source projects do more than just encourage oligopolistic markets, they also spur the kinds of innovation and creative thinking that make not just for a great culture, but also support the aggressive growth necessary to be a winner.

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