One of the useful lenses to understand the tech industry is coalition theory. It can be surprising that particular vendors collaborate closely at any given time, given they are ostensibly arch-rivals. Generally however there is an outside threat or driver that explains what is going on.
Think for example of IBM and BEA (later acquired by Oracle) competing head to head in the late 1990s. Ownership of the Java application server market was the prize, but for all of the companies in the Java market the threat driving collaboration was of course Microsoft.
We used to talk about the Anyone but Microsoft club. Arguably the triumph of open source in the enterprise was a result of the same driver. Linux was a means to avoid Microsoft operating system domination. Vendors would push an alternative, and customers would support it partly as means to hedge their bets against too much domination by a single provider.
Today the dominant vendor scaring tech providers is clearly Amazon Web Services.
One facet of today’s Anyone but Amazon coalition is OpenStack. AWS dominance led pretty much every other major tech vendor, no matter how competitive to converge on OpenStack, as an open hedge.
When pondering the implications of Microsoft’s hiring of Brendan Burns the other day, it struck me another coalition is forming, changing the fault lines of the industry. Burns is one of the founders of the Kubernetes container cluster manager project. He was at Google but just took a job as product lead for the Azure Resource Manager. He has already publicly declared he will continue to work on Kubernetes. Kubernetes has also been enthusiastically adopted by Red Hat, through it’s OpenShift platform.
So now Microsoft, Red Hat, and Google Cloud Platform are all now aligned around Kubernetes. While at first glance this new alliance of strange bedfellows might seem to be a response to the rise of Docker and the Docker Pattern – and indeed there is no doubt the enthusiastic growth in Kubernetes is partly driven by concern that Docker will own too much real estate of the new infrastructure world I believe the overarching threat is Amazon.
As Stephen has explained – the biggest competitor to open source is Amazon. There is no doubt that Amazon EC2 Container Services is going to gain wide traction. Amazon can afford to be magnanimous about Docker’s rise in a way other vendors can’t. Docker is an implementation detail rather than a potential existential threat to AWS.
This week another shoe dropped, when Amazon announced it is acquiring Cloud9, the online IDE startup. Cloud9 created Ace, which also powers the GitHub editor.
At serverlessconf recently Amazon GM of Serverless Tim Wagner made it very clear that he sees testing moving into the cloud sooner rather than later. An online IDE is a good place to start – a technology we keep expecting to take off… and keep waiting. Developers continue to choose local machine performance and convenience, which partly explains the Docker phenomenon. Networks are never perfect. On the other hand developers already rely on at least one cloud service – specifically GitHub.
The Amazon move is frankly a huge shot in the arm for the Eclipse Foundation, which was born of an earlier coalition to avoid the emergence of Sun with a top to bottom Java stack as too much of a threat to IBM. Eclipse was the original open source IDE, but has recently started to put together a really nice story around Che, based on software from Codenvy. The Codenvy story is really nice- it’s not really an online IDE so much as Web-based tools portability platform. It manages the developer’s environment, with all dependencies, managing Docker machines and other runtimes. It hides operational details unless the operator wants to see them. Being online rather than on a local machine it’s simple to fork and share environments with other team members. It’s pretty cool. Contributors include IBM, Red Hat, Samsung, and WS02.
Finally it’s worth mentioning the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, which was ostensibly founded to manage Cloud Native open source technology, but also has a role to play in managing the new coalitions. Given it is the home of Kubernetes it’s going to become ever more important as the ABA coalition members collaborate and compete around open source technologies such as Docker.
I talk about the Brendan Burns hire here if you like video
disclosure: Amazon, Docker, Eclipse Foundation, IBM, Oracle, Microsoft and Red Hat are all cients.