Market Parallels – Cloud and Open Source?

Any new technology market has its own lifecycle and rhythm.  From mainframes, through smartphones, there’s the early years, the rapid growth, some slowing down and inevitably a decline.  Some technologies never go away completely (e.g. mainframes), while others never really get a foothold (insert your own example here).

Open source was a software movement that began as an idea and now dominates how many new software offerings are marketed and sold. Open source is not a technology, but a business and legal framework within which technology is propogated.  Still, the biggest companies in software are largely closed source – Oracle, SAP, etc.  Nearly all specialty vertical apps (e.g. trading systems) are closed source.  Whereas most new development technologies including databases and tools are open source.  Given that open source is more a legal construct which bleeds into sales and marketing, it’s highly likely that there will be both open and closed source models co-existing for any foreseeable future.  Further, open source shrinks the size of the industry from a revenue perspective by default  (though parodoxically, software spending is up this year even in this economy).

What about cloud computing?  Will there still be the need for the cloud modifier in the future?  In the past most infrastructure was sold directly to the users under a capex spending model – this includes servers, databases, operating systems, etc.  Of total infrastructure spending in 20 years, how much will still be for on-premise capex, and how much for cloud opex?  Will ecconomies of scale drive infrastructure in the cloud to a point where the infrastructure market will shrink in both real and nominal terms?

Will the purveyors of servers, networking and core infrastructure software sell 90% of their wares to cloud companies?  Will what we currently call  “cloud computing” be  just plain “computing” in the future?  Time will tell, and it will be a long time before the cloud distinction becomes superflous, but it will be interesting to watch.

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