Google plans to raise the stakes Tuesday in the ongoing debate over open-source software in a cloudy world with the announcement of commercial managed-service deals with seven key open-source data-oriented companies, including three who changed their licensing strategies last year to ward off cloud providers.
Redis Labs, MongoDB, and Confluent have struck deals with Google to offer managed services around their flagship projects, new Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian is expected to announce on stage Tuesday at Google Cloud Next 2019. Google also cut a deal with Elastic that should raise some eyebrows inside Amazon Web Services, and tapped DataStax, Influx Data, and Neo4j for forthcoming services based around some of the most popular open-source databases with the software development community.
“We see a lot of customers wanting to develop applications using open source,” Kurian said in an interview ahead of the keynote address. “We felt that many cloud providers were not working in a friendly manner to open source, and we felt that open-source companies needed to have a cloud partner that would share the success of the platform with them.”
The announcement is easily the biggest move Google Cloud has made under Kurian, the longtime Oracle executive who joined Google at the end of last year. It comes amid heated industry debate over the role of open source in a world that is shifting to cloud computing, which is changing a lot of the underlying assumptions about how open-source projects should be created, maintained, and funded.
Over the last ten years, companies building tech infrastructure within their own data centers flocked to open-source enterprise software, excited that they could draw on the work of experts in a particular discipline and avoid spending time and money recreating that work within their own companies. That led to lots of startups organized around open-source projects, which hoped to build managed revenue-generating services for other companies that wanted the benefits of open-source software without having to deal with complexity of making those projects work within their systems.
But given the very nature of cloud computing and open-source projects, it’s relatively easy for anyone — not just the project creator or maintainer — to take an open-source project and offer it as a cloud-based managed service without having to fulfill the fundamental promise of open-source development: to contribute code back to the project. As enterprise tech power consolidates across AWS, Microsoft, and Google, and customers that have grown comfortable with commodity cloud services like compute and storage start looking at other higher-margin services provided by those companies, calls have grown for new ideas to help independent companies working on extremely complex technical projects to find a path to commercial success.
Database companies have perhaps felt this pain most acutely, given how central databases are to just about every application and the amount of creativity that has been unleashed in database development over the past several years. Last year Redis, MongoDB, and Confluent all changed licensing policies around some of the code they developed and maintained with the explicit goal of discouraging cloud vendors from offering those projects as services without commercial reseller or revenue-sharing deals.
“We generally feel that if an open-source company has done the hard work of creating the open-source technology and providing the solution, they should be fairly rewarded for doing the hard work,” Kurian said.
Much of this debate has been the result of an indifferent (at best) approach to open-source projects and companies during the early days of AWS, and that made an impression on a sizable number of developers raised on open-source community activity. That attitude has definitely changed within AWS over the last couple of years, but friction remains, as perhaps best evidenced by the recent decision of AWS to release a distribution of Elasticsearch that offered many of the commercial services provided by Elastic for free.
Despite that friction, Redis Labs, MongoDB, and Confluent all offer managed services on AWS, perhaps because that’s where the money is. So in a sense, what Google is basically pledging is to refrain from offering competing services based around the open-source projects at the heart of the commercial projects, which is what AWS did with its DocumentDB service launched in January.
“Open source is more in the DNA of Google,” said Ofer Bengal, founder and CEO of Redis Labs, which kicked off this open-source debate last year by tapping the controversial Commons Clause to govern certain aspects of Redis software. The Redis service offered by Google will be nearly identical to the managed service Redis itself offers and governed by a revenue-sharing agreement, but Bengal thinks exposure to Google’s customer base will help Redis find new customers.
Almost all cloud providers offer access to these open-source projects through their third-party marketplaces, but such offerings are second-class citizens compared to managed services offered directly by cloud providers in many ways. Several sources involved with Google’s announcement noted that being able to offer customers unified billing for these services through their regular Google Cloud accounts was just as much of an incentive as anything to make these deals come together.
For its part, Redis discussed a similar service with Google under previous CEO Diane Greene, but Bengal said Kurian made these deals an immediate priority in his early days at Google, which trails AWS and Microsoft by a sizable amount when it comes to cloud market share, according to Canalys.
“He has his own strategies and views on how to push Google Cloud, and this is one of them,” Bengal said.
[Editor’s note: This post was updated with additional information learned during the first day of Google Cloud Next.]