China and open source geopolitical strategy: Simon Wardley gaining weight
Statement: China's is increasingly playing the long game on open source, says strategist Simon Wardley.
In technical circles, Simon Wardley is best known for his maps, a tool for mapping parts of an industry and, by extension, to help organizations design their strategy. While Wardley is good at general strategy (and doing it for a living), he is particularly deep in open source strategy, where he spent a large percentage of his career. So when Wardley goes ahead with an open source strategy, as he did recently on Twitter, is worth tuning into.
SEE: How to build a successful developer career (PDF free) (Technology Republic)
Open source as a weapon
"Open-ended approaches can be used to deliberately change markets in certain ways. It is a very powerful system if used properly," Wardley wrote. That “powerful system”, as some mistakenly believe, is not a way to get free labor working on your code. That's an old myth about open source, but it's just that - a myth. No, as Wardley sent it, "That's just annoying execs going 'open' maybe because they read it in an equally uninteresting HBR / McKinsey / business school report."
SEE: China is the biggest obstacle to U.S. AI progress, half of leaders say (Technology Republic)
Instead, Wardley noted that an organization that wants to make good use of open source must be "all in" open source: Investment, desire, reasoning. This is not to suggest that meeting these conditions will necessarily lead to open source success. Despite all efforts, Wardley went on, it's really more "open doors for others to walk through. You have to make situations and constraints for the project to be successful."
Take, for example, Kubernetes. I have written about the success of the Kubernetes community for years, but that success did not come for free. Google had to open up management of the project to outsiders, allowing Red Hat and, more recently, VMware, to contribute in significant ways. This is one reason Wardley warned that open source is breeding "A lot of frustration… and it won't happen quickly if it's going to last." It is relatively cheap for a single company to launch a project and use it mainly for marketing window decoration; but to be truly sustainable, a project needs different grants to fund it (with money) and fuel (with code).
Google has also chosen to license Kubernetes under the Apache 2.0 license, which encourages developers to use and contribute freely. In addition, Google (and other partners) have invested heavily in the marketing of the project. Even with all this effort, Kubernetes could have failed. There is no warranty.
Thinking long term open source
Not that Wardley would allow me to use Kubernetes as an example. In his way of thinking, Kubernetes is no further than OpenStack. Wardley, who loves things like no server, believes the future will take time, and perhaps more time than most Western companies are able to focus on: “[The] The most common type of response is the Oracle way of appearing after the war is over to announce that you are going to win the war (which is already over) with some future investment . It's silly. You need strategic players in the long run. Think China, not the US. "
In China, Wardley argues, there is a long - term desire to win, and there is a growing place of open source here. The reasons, according to Lisa Caywood, are about self - defense as much as crime: "It's first a defense order from a Chinese perspective, and then about making sure they can integrate effectively with it. the rest of the world’s technical infrastructure. ”
Is the game over, China wins? Of course not. But smart companies (and countries) are increasingly using open source to drive long - term value, according to Wardley, which also requires long - term investment. Using open source as a marketing gimmick may bring immediate benefits, but it does not deliver the long - term competitive advantage that Wardley points out.
Disclosure: I work for AWS, but nothing here is related to my job there.