Why Istio Matters to Google

You may have notices the brouhaha in response to Google’s announcement to hand over trademark management of its popular Istio, Angular, and Gerrit open source projects to the newly created Open Usage Commons (OUC) non-profit. While I gave Google the benefit of the doubt, the vast majority of commentary assumed that Google only had its own interests at heart and tried to add the appearance of openness to its projects without actually delivering. Google dominates the OUC and therefore any decisions.

Here, I want to focus on why people, most notably cloud providers, care. I will ignore sensibilities (broken promises or not) and focus on the business perspective. As I wrote before, of the three projects given to the OUC, the heat is on Istio, a (micro-)services mesh software. Angular and Gerrit may be important projects in general, but don’t matter much to Google’s revenue. So, what is it about Istio?

Istio, from a business perspective, is an on-ramp to where the real money is: in cloud computing platforms. We increasingly are seeing companies making their software available as open source, for users to run in their own data center. The gamble is that at some future point in time, the users will tire of operating that software themselves, and then will subscribe to the vendor’s cloud services, whose open source software they are already using. Ka-ching!

Istio, as a software for integrating and managing services from an application operations perspective, including edge computing, can be used by application developers in their own cloud, but when the time comes to scale, these very developers will look for a trustworthy public cloud computing platform which provides them with their most cherished frameworks and services, including Istio.

If Google and their motley crew of business partners in the Istio project, but not AWS or Microsoft, are the only providers of Istio-marked Istio-based services, then Google gets a +1 on the decision which cloud platform to migrate to. The public cloud market is so large that every little change in market share has a real effect on revenue even for companies as large as Google.

And that’s it! Win the hearts of developers, and they will chose you for products and services when the time comes.

Leave a Reply