Oracle has always been a little more pragmatic about the role of open-source software in the tech industry than a company like Microsoft, which fought the very concept tooth and nail for years. Still, now that both companies have joined the foundation at the heart of one of the most important open-source projects in enterprise tech at the moment, it’s another sign the center of gravity has shifted.
The Cloud Native Computing Foundation welcomed Oracle as a platinum member Wednesday at the Open Source Summit, joining a host of other tech giants that have pledged support this year for the organization that manages the open-source container-orchestration project Kubernetes. In doing so, it promises to devote engineering time and money to a project that is extremely mindful of the era of enterprise technology that Oracle dominated to the disgust of many tech buyers, stuck paying exorbitant amounts of money year after year for its software licenses because it was simply too difficult to move to another provider.
I mean, this paragraph in Oracle’s press release is kind of amazing, if you’ve been listening to cloud companies not-so-subtly rail against enterprise software vendor lock-in for years (emphasis mine):
As enterprises accelerate how they build and deploy mission-critical applications, development teams are seeking an open, cloud-neutral, container-native technology stack that avoids lock-in. By joining CNCF, Oracle is demonstrating its support for this effort as well as the Kubernetes open-source community, the core component of the CNCF technology stack.
A lot has changed since Oracle was one of the few companies that could support large enterprise tech operations. Cloud computing has allowed startups and large enterprises alike to only pay for the amount of computing they need (more or less), and Kubernetes is part of an effort to ensure that this continues.
Software development teams use Kubernetes to manage, deploy, and scale applications that have been containerized, or broken down into lightweight packages that don’t care about the hardware on which they will run. It also gives cloud customers a way to avoid getting locked into any given cloud provider by making it easier to run workloads across multiple clouds and homegrown infrastructure.
Oracle, of course, is one of the many cloud providers looking up at Amazon Web Services with a keen interest in making it easier for AWS customers to run their workloads on other public clouds. And unlike Microsoft, Oracle has long realized that it can benefit from open-source technology, as evidenced in this 2006 Financial Times interview with Oracle co-founder, executive chairman, and current Chief Technology Officer Larry Ellison:
So the great thing about open source is nobody owns it – a company like Oracle is free to take it for nothing, include it in our products and charge for support, and that’s what we’ll do. So it is not disruptive at all – you have to find places to add value. Once open source gets good enough, competing with it would be insane. Keep in mind it’s not that good in most places yet. We’re a big supporter of Linux. At some point we may embed Linux in all of our products and provide support.
Oracle indeed plans to incorporate Kubernetes into its Oracle Linux Container Services product as part of this announcement. The company had already started contributing to Kubernetes, which anyone can do, but joining the CNCF formalizes its relationship with the project.
There’s no doubt the CNCF is grateful for the surge of industry support over the last few months, but it’s going to be tricky to make sure it lives up to its “light-touch approach” to cloud standards with all these competing interests at the table.
The CNCF also announced that two new projects donated by Uber and Lyft have joined its roster of ten projects. Uber contributed Jaeger, which helps developers using microservices get a better picture of how their applications are working. For its part, Lyft donated Envoy, a service-mesh project similar to the CNCF’s linkerd that abstracts networking for the developer, it said in a release.