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By some measures, open source has been wildly successful in the cloud. Open source solutions like Kubernetes have eaten closed-source alternatives for lunch. Yet, in other respects, open source within the cloud has been a complete failure. Cloud-based architectures continue to pose fundamental problems for achieving open source’s founding goals of protecting user freedom. For many organizations, using the cloud means surrendering control to proprietary solutions providers and facing stiff lock-in risks.
These observations beg the question: Why hasn’t open source been more influential in the cloud, and what could be done to make cloud computing more friendly toward open source?
Open Source’s Problem with the Cloud
From the early days of the cloud era, there has been a tension between open source and the cloud.
When free and open source software first emerged in the 1980s under the auspices of Richard Stallman and the GNU project, the main goal (as Stallman put it at the time) was to make software source code available to anyone who wanted it so that users could “use computers without dishonor” and operate in solidarity with one another.
If you run software on a local device, having access to the source …
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