Ignoring Amazon: Risky, Short Sighted, Maybe Not an Informed Decision

January 15, 2019

I read “AWS, MongoDB, and the Economic Realities of Open Source.” The write up does a good job of explaining how convenience can generate cash for old line businesses.

The essay then runs down the features of a typical open source business model; namely, money comes from proprietary add ons, services, training, etc. Accurate and helpful is the discussion. Few people recognize the vulnerability of this type of open source model for companies not in a “winner take all position.” A good example is Elastic’s success, and the lack of success of other open source search systems which are in most cases pretty good.

The discussion of Amazon explains that Amazon is in the service business; specifically, the software-as-a-service business. That’s mostly correct. I have given two or three talks about Amazon’s use of AWS in the law enforcement and intelligence sector, and I have to be honest. Few understood what I was emphasizing. Amazon is a disruption machine. I call it the Bezos bulldozer.

The write up draws parallels with the music business case with which the Stratechery essay begins. I understand the parallel. I agree with this statement:

AWS is not selling MongoDB: what they are selling is “performance, scalability, and availability.” DocumentDB is just one particular area of many where those benefits are manifested on AWS. Make no mistake: these benefits are valuable.

The point of the write up is mostly on the money as well. I noted this statement:

…the debate on the impact of cloud services on open source has been a strident one for a while now. I think, though, that the debate gets sidetracked by (understandable) discussions about “fairness” and what AWS supposedly owes open source. Yes, companies like MongoDB Inc. and Redis Labs worked hard, and yes, AWS is largely built on open source, but the world is governed by economic realities, not subjective judgments of fairness.

There are several facets of Amazon’s system and method for competition which may be more important than the inclusion of open source software in its suite of “conveniences.”

At some point, I would welcome conference organizers, MBAs, and open source mavens to address such questions as:

  1. What is the ease of entry or implementation for open source services on AWS?
  2. What is the future of training developers to use the AWS system? Who does the training?
  3. What is the short term benefit to Amazon to have developers use open source and the AWS platform to create new products and services?
  4. What is the long term benefit to Amazon to have new products and services become successful on the AWS platform?
  5. What is the mid term impact on procurements for commercial and government entities?
  6. What is the shape of the Bezos bulldozer’s approach to lock in?

I was recently informed by a conference organizer that no one had interest in Amazon’s disruption of the policeware and intelware sector.

Do you think that the organizer’s conclusion was informed? Do you think open source is more than the digital equivalent of a gateway drug?

I do. For information about the DarkCyber briefing on Amazon’s policeware and intelware “play,” write benkent2020 at yahoo dot com.

Stephen E Arnold, January 15, 2019


One Response to “Ignoring Amazon: Risky, Short Sighted, Maybe Not an Informed Decision”

  1. Veronique on February 12th, 2019 1:12 pm

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