Google’s recent decision to lay off key members of its Open Source Programs Office (OSPO) has sparked widespread criticism from the tech community. The cuts, which included the company’s long-standing open source chief Chris DiBona, have been called shortsighted and naive. Google’s open source strategy has been a major driving force behind its cloud and open source successes, with projects such as TensorFlow and Kubernetes helping the company make significant inroads against its cloud rival, AWS.
The company’s move to lay off key figures in open source, including DiBona and others, is particularly baffling, given the strategic importance of open source in Google’s business. Open sourcing software like TensorFlow or Kubernetes allows Google to influence industry direction, and the company’s contributions to projects such as Envoy, etcd, Knative, Istio, and more, are significant.
Open source has been instrumental in Google’s success in the cloud wars, but cutting the people who established and maintain the scaffolding of Google’s open source and cloud operations could have serious repercussions. The decision to lay off key figures, who have done the behind-the-scenes work to make open source an essential part of Google’s operations, ignores the fact that their experience and expertise are crucial to keeping the momentum going.
The company has made other moves in recent years that demonstrate its commitment to open source. For example, in 2019, Google announced partnerships with seven open source data companies, including MongoDB. More recently, the company helped create the Open Source Security Foundation to improve security in key open source projects. Open source permeates almost everything Google does in its cloud business, and laying off key figures could have a damaging impact on the company’s future plans.
In conclusion, Google’s decision to lay off key figures in open source is a mistake. Instead of cutting costs by releasing experienced professionals, the company should be investing in more open source expertise to maintain its momentum in the cloud wars. While its parent company, Alphabet, may have a comfortable $46.34 billion in profit, the cost of losing valuable open source expertise could be much higher in the long run.