Open Infrastructure

Nov 10, 2021

Infrastructure is becoming open source. And it's not just infrastructure for engineering teams, but for finance and data analytics. Why?

  1. Observability and monitoring. Closed systems cannot be observed. Managed services take away this responsibility from the customer. But when problems exist in closed-source software that is in the critical path, debugging can be harder if the system doesn't have proper ways to be observed.
  2. Automation and infrastructure as code. Closed systems often do not have APIs to hook into automation, e.g., declarative environments and versioned controlled configuration. Closed-source systems have to solve the developer experience and provide customers with environment management.
  3. Data governance. Engineers can demo and try software not only before they buy, but also before they go through security reviews. The less data that leaves a customer's cloud, the fewer hoops an engineer needs to jump through to integrate the software.
  4. Faster growth. Open source (sometimes) creates more value for customers. Time to value is (sometimes) quicker. If you don't, a competitor will. Open source is also (sometimes) a great way to build community around a problem.

Consequences

  1. Platform teams appearing in more places / Industry clouds. Different organizations within a company are now upgrading their automated workflows to true infrastructure. What used to be done with a low-code ETL tool is now real cloud infrastructure (that may or may not be managed by the company in their cloud). Data and Analytics, Marketing, and Sales now have significant software needed to support them – all of which needs to operate with other infrastructure. Who manages these different platforms? Is it all up to a centralized DevOps team? Or are "industry clouds" managed by their respective departments?
  2. Deployment models change. Just because infrastructure is becoming open doesn't mean that companies want to run everything themselves. The data plane / control plane architecture keeps data local but vendors in control.
  3. Value capture. How do these companies monetize? They face an uphill battle against the cloud providers who have a better cost structure and better distribution.

Examples

  • FinTech: Moov develops an open-sourced payment operations platform.
  • Data Integration: Airbyte develops an open-sourced ETL platform. So does Meltano.
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