I don’t often do a pure opinion piece but I feel compelled to weigh in on a queston I’ve been asked several times since EMC released its Pivotal HD recently. The question is whether it is somehow inappropriate, even “evil,” for EMC to enter the market without having “enough” committers to open source Apache projects. More broadly, it’s about whether other people can use, incorporate, add to and profit from Apache Hadoop.
The fact is, there is an entire industry building products atop Apache open source code – and that is the point of having Apache license its projects and provide the other services it does for the open source community. The license permits such use, and companies using the Apache web server, Lucene and SOLR, Cassandra and CouchDB, and many others are everywhere. Others are building BI tools or DI tools that integrate with Apache Hadoop, or selling consulting to incorporate it into solutions. Again – that is the point. Having some components of your solution stack provided by the open source community is a fact of life and a benefit for all. So are roads, but nobody accuses Fedex or your pizza delivery guy of being evil for using them without contributing some asphalt. Commercial entities (including software and IT services providers) provide needed products and services, employ people and pay taxes. We might want them to do more charitable work or make more open source contributions , and some do, but they are not morally obligated to do so. Some IT companies make huge commitments to charitable activities and some don’t – the same is true in all sectors of the economy.
I understand why open source advocates think they are defending their turf, and I know it’s a core belief that it matters how many committers you have. But I don’t believe the market will care as Hadoop moves into the mainstream. Buyers will choose the solutions that fit their needs, from suppliers who support them at a price they are comfortable with – and will do so whether the vendors have “enough” committers or not.
For clarity’s sake, this wasn’t a new market entry. EMC was already a purveyor of Hadoop-based solutions with their Greenplum HD and with a version based on MapR. That itself is a topic worth a sentence or two. EMC’s decision to offer a MapR-based distribution early on was very much a market choice – they did it for customers who demanded those features NOW (then) and could’t get them any other way. I don’t think EMC fooled those buyers, who asked for what EMC provided. Nor do I think EMC is morally reprehensible for building their own solution by leveraging something in their product portfolio (in this case, Isilon as a potential substitute for HDFS) and thus “abandoning” those customers.
Now, if EMC stops supporting those buyers, forces them to move to a new product to keep their support – well, then we can talk. But just to be clear, virtually every software company has an end of life policy on support for versions of its products. And again, some are more “oppressive” about it than others – and the topic is often very contentious. I get inquiries on it all the time. That topic has not even come up with EMC and MapR yet.
So a few deep breaths, please.
Dial it back.
Support open source. It’s a good thing. In fact, it’s transformative – it changes your choices, and often for the better, especially economically.
If you sell, by all means appeal to people who value purity. But let’s not try to have our cake and eat it too: if you sell a product based only on open source, or services that help people implement and profit from it, you’re part of the same economy as those who blend it with other pieces. Let’s compete on the basis of satisfying our customers at a fair price. The rest – well, that’s marketing. And we all know how much some people like that, and how seriously they take it.