The proprietary debates comes back to life

There seems to be a constant debate in cloud computing and media as a service circles about proprietary systems. Sinclair Schuller today asks if the future is cloud is proprietary silos, while Bob Warfield and others wade into the Apple Adobe dabate.

This whole phenomenon is a balance between controlling the user experience and operating a free market to deliver choice.  It’s a question of timing…

Here is an anology based on an observation…. Societies that don’t know when their next meal is coming don’t worry about animal welfare or organic food. That’s a luxury, something you can only do when all your basic needs are being met.

Technology is the same.  When you are building disruptive services that are in the early phase of their adoption (which cloud still is), the user experience across all facets of the value chain is normally below the good enough line for the majority. That is they are still worrying about the basics.  The only way to bring that ‘good enough” experience to the majority is for the developers to control most aspects of the delivery. 

To do that you vertically integrate and write proprietary code to ensure that you can control the experience. 

This is why Apply closely tied the proprietary iTunes to the proprietary hardware (iPhone).  DRM wasn’t working, so they took a different approach and locked down and integrated the hardware with the content platform. Philosophical reservations aside, the iTunes to hardware experience as a consumer is great….Again, the only people griping about that proprietary ecosystem are those who are more technically savvy, past the “good enough” , line and demanding greater choice.

Cloud will be the same. Private clouds are becoming vertically integrated. WAN’s, compute, storage and management are all being delivered by one proprietary stack (take VBlock). The providers can control the every aspect and deliver on the user experience…

But this will change,  but only when technology matures enough and the ‘good enough experience is delivered to the majority…. When that happens users will demand choice, far greater choice than a single vendor with a proprietary vertically integrated stack can deliver. The kind of choice that only comes from open standards…

This pattern has happened time after time in every industry, shipping, electricity, Telecommunications, it will happen for Cloud.


My punt, platforms are the really exciting part of the SaaS revolution going on. There has been a number of recent articals regarding this and it is to me just another sign of the shift in focus.

Why? My guess is that many would be SaaS application providers have a lot on their plate as it is and have only just realised that SaaS is soooo much more than just a app in the cloud.

I really enjoyed the links off Sinclair Schullers    last post on Saasblogs.  Quite a lot of harmony with some of the challenges we are currently going through, have been through or are deciding to go through.

This i guess is one of the best part of the blogsphere, the coalesence of similar thoughts and collectively crystalising them.   Nice work