Many of you likely read highlights from Gartner’s “The State of Open Source, 2008” report a few weeks back. You can read the report here.

Considering all the hype around cloud computing, I re-read Gartner’s comments on OSS and cloud computing:

“By 2011, open source will dominate software infrastructure for cloud-based providers.


Contrast this with cloud-based providers whose cost of services offered (the equivalent of the package provider’s cost of goods sold) is dominated by the cost of such infrastructure. This basic economic shift has driven the majority of cloud-based providers to strongly embrace commodity hardware and open-source software to drive down the cost of services offered to unprecedented levels. In particular, unlike the majority of enterprise data centers, the largest cloud-based data centers are self-supporting the Linux kernel instead of paying a license fee for a managed Linux distribution (such as Red Hat) to completely eliminate software license fees. Only by radically reducing their infrastructure costs can cloud-based providers offer the pricing models (based on radically lower profit margins) necessary to disrupt the incumbent packaged software. Thus, the simple economics of “cost of goods sold” will drive “zero software license fee” open source to be the dominant (more than two-thirds) software infrastructure for cloud-based providers.”

The punch line is: OSS will virtually own the software infrastructure layer in cloud computing environments, but, the OSS products will be used without paid support. Infrastructure OSS vendors may want to consider this when deciding what features to include in the for-fee offering vs. in the “Community Edition” offering.

Major software & hardware vendors will all offer some form of a cloud computing environment in the future. However, the revenue opportunities for OSS infrastructure vendors does not appear promising:

  • Amazon – OSS supported internally?
  • Dell – Open source and Microsoft software infrastructure?
  • Google – OSS supported internally?
  • HP – Open source and Microsoft software infrastructure?
  • IBM – IBM’s software infrastructure & maybe some OSS (supported internally)?
  • Microsoft – Microsoft’s software infrastructure
  • Oracle – Oracle’s software infrastructure & maybe some OSS (supported internally)?
  • Red Hat – Red Hat and other third-party open source software infrastructure?
  • SAP – ???
  • Sun – Oracle’s software infrastructure & maybe some OSS (supported internally)?

Cloud computing appears poised to restrict the size of the OSS market much more than any closed-source software vendor could achieve. Luckily, we’re at least a decade away from customers defaulting to a cloud computing environment over traditional on-premise environments. That is plenty of time for OSS infrastructure vendors to react…