Open source advocate Matt Asay makes a case for the future domination of open source software in his article "In The Age Of Twitter, Do We Need Oracle? Larry Ellison Isn't Sure". He argues that while traditional software companies, such as Oracle, can claim as major clients traditional companies, they can't claim the major web companies. Therefore Asay concludes, companies like Oracle are being left behind by the future of software development. He writes:
"Twitter has given us Storm and a range of other great open-source software....Such data infrastructure was born on the web, hatched in the bowels of web giants like Google, Facebook and Twitter. Each of these companies depends upon commodity servers running open-source technology, some of which they build, some of which they download and modify. None of it comes from a legacy technology vendor. "
Later on he concludes:
"We're likely to see the legacy vendors take an increasingly peripheral role in an age of Twitter"
Leaving aside Salesforce.com which is standarizing on the Oracle stack, Asay's claim is specious because it assumes the unique data problems web companies face are similar to problems most businesses face. It also overlooks the fact that the major web companies are customers for common business applications.
To make this claim is a little like saying because Richard Petty Motorsports, Stewart Haas Racing, and Automobiles Gonfaronnaises Sportives have all build their own automobiles John Q. Public and Suzie S.Soccermom should start building their own Minivans. NASCAR and Formula 1 racers are engineered and build for some very specific uses - to go as fast as they possibly can and for the driver to survive fiery high speed collisions.
So too do the major web companies have a number of unique problems not faced by the majority of businesses:
- They give product away,
- The number of users this attracts creates enormous scaleability issues,
- The have to manage energy costs carefully,
- They can optimize their entire infrastructure, including data centers, around a narrow set of computations, like online search.
Although at Constellation Research's Connected Enterprise Event, Tesla Motors CIO Jay Vijayan did describe his company as developing its own purpose built ERP system from scratch (and in three months no less) the major web giants turn to traditional vendors for traditional business systems like General Ledger, Accounts Payable, and CRM.
Formula 1 and NASCAR races are entertaining. Twitter is entertaining (recently one of its most popular tags was #AddBoobsToTvTitles -really?). But when it comes to the heavy lifting in either transportation or computing that work will be done with the tools the Fords and Oracles of the world provide and not the tools used by the NASCARs or the Twitters.