When Is Open Source Enterprise PaaS a ‘Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing’?

By Sinclair Schuller

Open source software projects typically pitch their openness, community collaboration and fairness to enterprise customers as virtues that their proprietary counterparts can’t deliver on. Although my company, Apprenda, is a closed source enterprise hybrid PaaS, I have respect for the true open source position. It’s virtuous and honest, fostering an intrinsic value that no feature in a proprietary model could replicate. Don’t get me wrong; I prefer the proprietary model in this space (open source isn’t by default the best option).  What bothers me, however, is it seems that wolf-in-sheeps-clothing-31some PaaS vendors are “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” This seems to be particularly true with “open source” PaaS offerings like Pivotal’s Cloud Foundry and Red Hat’s OpenShift.

What do I mean by “wolf in sheep’s clothing?” Upon reviewing the “Cloud Foundry Incubator” documentation found here, which touts itself as “…an incubator process to support community collaboration and feedback for incubating externally contributed projects,” you find an interesting tid-bit on how final decisions are made for inclusion into Cloud Foundry:

The final decision for a forward transition in the Incubator lifecycle is determined by:

If the review does not pass, then an explanation will be provided on the mailing list.

Who is the Cloud Foundry PM team? What about the Cloud Foundry Engineering team? Well, they’re probably employees of the Goliath-masquerading-as-David “startup” named Pivotal. That begs questions like:

  • What exactly makes Cloud Foundry “open” if Pivotal maintains unilateral inclusion/exclusion rights?
  • What happens if changes conflict with Pivotal’s commercial goals despite it being good for the community? How is this sort of conflict of interest resolved?
  • Why isn’t this seen as free feature development for a large, commercial entity? Doesn’t this violate the spirit of “open”?
  • Since when can “open” projects afford to take out one page ads in the Wall Street Journal? This feels a bit like the “Bishop of Bling,” Silicon Valley style.

I appreciate competition on a foundation of honest merits; dishonest positioning to dupe would-be customers, however, hurts the customer and frankly, reflects poorly on the PaaS space as a whole. This version of “open” feels less like open source, and more like a “open” in a Venus fly trap sense.


Sinclair Schuller

Sinclair Schuller is the CEO of Apprenda. Before Apprenda, Sinclair held positions at Morgan Stanley, Eden Communications, and consulted for the State University of New York’s (SUNY) vast IT systems. Sinclair holds dual Bachelor of Science degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

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