How the tech giants co-opted the world of open source

On 28 October 2018, it was announced that IBM will buy open source software company, Red Hat, for $34 billion. This is a landmark deal, as the biggest IBM has made in its more-than-a-hundred year history, and the third largest deal ever for a US tech company. It also moves IBM very quickly into pole position as the largest hybrid cloud provider, ahead of its rivals Amazon and Microsoft. But the most interesting thing about the acquisition is what it suggests about IBM’s future relationship with the open source community.

This is the latest in a string of deals in the open source space that suggests a major shift in the tech industry. In March, Salesforce acquired MuleSoft for $6.4 billion. This was quickly followed Microsoft’s eyebrow-raising $7.5 billion acquisition of open source developer platform, Github, in June – which generated a degree of backlash from the developer community. Since then, Microsoft has joined the Open Invention Network, effectively offering up its entire patent portfolio to the open-source patent consortium’s members, and just this month open source data management platforms Cloudera and Hortonworks merged in a $5.2 billion deal.

This activity marks a change in the perception of open source. Traditionally, the worlds of intellectual property protection and open source were vastly separate. They were seen as completely opposing business strategies, and tech companies favoured one or the other – but the Venn diagram rarely overlapped. Microsoft and IBM were viewed as the epitome of a closed-door approach to protection of intellectual property, and open source was associated with smaller, edgier development teams doing more interesting things. So, to many, this recent activity seems to be completely left field. To some developers, it is even alarming.

Continue reading this article on the New Statesman Tech’s website here.