Last week, Box announced Box Open Source in a tweet. According to Box CEO Aaron Levie; “Box couldn’t exist without open source projects,” and his company would release the engineering tools they had been using internally under an open license. This is awesome for them to admit — unlike another competitor.
We agree with Box that open source is at the heart of the modern IT world, all the hot Silicon Valley players (and beyond) build upon it. They use it to run their servers, take care of deployments or manage their code. And many have opened up some of the tools they use — like Box is now doing, in the name of good open source citizenship.
But I believe open source is more than just the set of tools we use to create our product. It is the very nature of what we do, our business model and product itself.
Own what you depend on
Of course, whether the tools you use are open source or not has little value for customers and end users. What they care about is the product itself and the amount of trust they can put into it. In the end, that is what matters: to what extend can you trust a product to work as advertised. Especially a product being run on servers you don’t even have access to.
ownCloud was created and built upon the premise that users and businesses should own their data. That is: know where the data is and control access to it. And there is only one way to guarantee that you own your data: if you can inspect the tools that store and share your data. Not the tools that are USED to build your data storage and sharing infrastructure, no, that infrastructure itself. And thus, ownCloud users and customers have complete and full access to all its source code.
The value of certainty
What does this control get you? Certainty. Depending on a vendor is always risky: the vendor can go bankrupt, be bought or raise prices. In the world of web services it also often happens that vendors decide to discontinue functionality they deem not crucial enough. It could just be something you depend on!
ownCloud can be run on your own servers, not requiring you to move your data to an untrusted, third-party server farm. More importantly, it does not require you to move all your data to a new location. ownCloud can simply connect to all your existing data warehouses: SharePoint, ftp servers, EMC². And to your non-mission-critical data on external storage like Amazon, Salesforce, Box or Google Docs. ownCloud consolidates your data, making it accessible through familiar and easy interfaces to all of the users in your organization.
And because ownCloud is a piece of your infrastructure you can own and thus truly trust, you can allow it to manage all this data, hiding the complexity of the underlying data storage. If you want, it can even encrypt data on the less trustworthy parts of it like the online solutions of Amazon, Dropbox and others, to ensure you remain on control of who gets access to it and how.