The world is pushing towards transparency at a rapid rate. It’s tough to measure the value-add of progress when people push the big red button. Good or bad, the creator hardly considers the full impact of what they built, even in minute daily experiences.
By virtue of a person feeling compelled to invoke their vision and create it, oftentimes they release it into the wild without a second thought. The systems we, humanity, create in order to maintain the fidelity of the system, are organizations. Forms of organizations include government, defined as something that mandates behaviors with risk of penalty and the capability to enforce such penalty, and corporations, which align around stated missions or purposes to achieve goals. Today, in a world where lines become blurred constantly, it’s hard to tell anymore if Google and Facebook are more government or corporation. Most likely, a bit of both.
I will not postulate on whether people’s inventions are good or bad (I am not an arbiter of morality), but instead make the case for a more transparent and open system. The internet is the great democratizer, an interlocking network that creates, sometimes unfettered, sometimes federated, access to information. Since the internet’s creation, its impacts have been far reaching and apparent.
Since the internet is a network, I would like to explore the properties of networks that make them valuable. I will not explore network effects at any length, but have instead included a resource that does a much better job explaining them than I likely could. There are two fundamental properties of network systems I would like to explore.
- In physics networked structures of atoms, like diamond, are invariably more stable, and therefore durable, than their non-networked counterparts, like the much softer silicon.
- Network arrangements tend to have greater transmissibility of signal and impact, allowing rapid propagation throughout a given system.
These trends are observable on the internet. News travels at the speed of fiber optic cables via social media, and audience reach becomes wider. With a quick google search anyone can know the truth that they are looking for, though whether that source is the truth or not is another conversation. Erosion of trust in the mainstream is currently falling away, with people instead turning to the truth of the existence they perceive in an ocean of information.
So how does this apply to open-source, DevOps, and networks?
Open-source was theorized as a means to increase access to the source of truth, so software engineering a profession, with, on average, some of the most technical people in the world, can judge for themselves the merit and true nature of a work. Myriad benefits have been observed since its instantiation, but I think for those reading, few can argue that open-source has created a tectonic shift in how software is created and delivered.
DevOps, meanwhile, is about breaking down internal corporate behaviors and similarly democratizing access to systems that enable better software development. By removing divisions in visibility between what was previous infrastructure, network, and security teams, and the development process itself, more inter-organizational visibility is generated.
There is obvious synergy here. Code is the common language, and while different “coding languages” may look and feel different, to a well-trained eye they are all conceptually readable, and mostly similar. Thus, in the same way the internet and computers *allow all of us to communicate information rapidly, Open-Source and DevOps will propagate the (cloud) infrastructure for the next generation of world-shaking technology.
As I discussed in my last article, networks that are robust, and governed responsibly, face almost no dislocation from typical forces, the type one would encounter everyday. Instead, it requires a massive external force to disrupt what is. One such example, highly discussed among security experts in the United States, is threats to the US Power grid, which is timely as of my writing since the Texas power outage. Without electricity, the infrastructure that gives us unfettered access to most everyday information one would want, is taken away.
Similarly, it’s my opinion that organizational weakening in Open source and DevOps comes from infighting, and the decided monopolization of the systems that enable value creation and enrichment in the industry in the first place. For a DevOps or Open-Source company to decide to silo some critical portion of their code base from the public, to make it not readily accessible or usable to prevent some other incumbents encroachment, to perceive it as a zero sum game in which we are fighting over some limited resource set, instead of an infinite resource game where we generate leverage off each other and create an even more rapidly changing world, these ideas are foolish. Encroachment for the purposes of anti-competitive behavior, not because it provides value to your end-user but purely for the purposes of inflicting harm, is equally damaging.
I personally believe in a transparent world, where people can access the systems and information that allow them to enrich themselves. I believe a world such as that would tend towards more merit based systems. Most people in DevOps, and software engineering in general, likely agree with that sentiment. I think it’s important to remember that there are bigger games at play right now in the future of network and infrastructure engineering, and the Open-Source/DevOps community would do well to remember that we stand stronger together. Hopefully, we can unite to push for a more honest, and properly governed, world.