Proprietary software a trap, says Hadoop founder Doug Cutting

Hadoop founder Doug Cutting believes enterprises have woken to the benefits of open source software, but says Europe is behind with adoption

Open source is winning praise in enterprises thanks to businesses realising the risk of letting proprietary software control their businesses.

This is the belief of Doug Cutting, creator of big data platform Hadoop and CEO of Cloudera, which uses the solution as the basis of its own big data solution.

Speaking at his company’s offices in San Francisco, he said: “I think people learned that proprietary software was a trap for their business and having the base platform that holds your most valuable data controlled by someone else is very dangerous.”

“You can end up paying unknown amounts in the future and that is a threat that people didn’t want to experience again.”

Cutting believed enterprises now trust the open source model, when previously there had been fear of the unknown. However, he admitted adoption was slower in Europe than in the US.

He said: “I have been told in France… companies don’t take it very seriously when companies elsewhere use technologies – they want to know about French companies using it before they trust it.

“So I think we are seeing the adoption a little later. I don’t know how much of that is because it is open source or because it is a new technology.”

Cutting praised “strong open source traditions” in Europe, pointing to conversations he had in Whitehall last year.

“Last time I was in the UK a year ago I remember meeting with a fellow who is with a think tank for the Tories and he was very keen on promoting open source technologies within the government,” he said.

“I don’t know where open source lies on the political spectrum… you would think more left, but he was definitely not on the left.

“So, I’d be surprised if there is a lot of distrust at that level of open source. I think it is more just a new way of doing things and organisations are conservative about adopting new things more in Europe than elsewhere.”

The Government Digital Service (GDS) in the UK published its Service Design Manual in March this year, putting forward an open source first approach for new technology implementations. The document said: “Use open source software in preference to proprietary or closed source alternatives, in particular for operating systems, networking software, web servers, databases and programming languages.”

However, earlier this month, Computer Weekly learned that particular section had been removed from the document and replaced with one calling for “a level playing field” between open source and proprietary software.

The revised manual now says: “With the growth of free/open source software, many high-quality technology products are freely available for government and its suppliers to use and improve. But a large market still exists for commercial software products, and the availability of open source software doesn’t automatically mean that you can’t choose a proprietary technology if it meets our needs.

“However, it remains the policy of the government that, where there is no significant overall cost difference between open and non-open source products that fulfil minimum and essential capabilities, open source will be selected on the basis of its inherent flexibility.”

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