GAE and the Linux server ecosystem
Obviously Azure is a proprietary Microsoft product and has no standing within the Linux server ecosystem that many of us participate in. So this brings me to GAE specifically and how it affects Linux on the server. I've noticed early on during my research that a number of people have strong feelings that GAE could actually be hurting Linux server adoption. It does this, in the view of some, by blurring the lines too much between an actual Linux server and this "thing" managed by Google.
I think those people with this fear have a right to be concerned. While it would increase the actual instances of Linux being used on a per application basis worldwide, the issue is that the running of the Linux server would be entirely in Google's hands. Think of it as people associate Linux on the desktop with Ubuntu exclusively. Clearly, this is not what we'd like to see in the diversity that is the open source community.
The obvious flipside to this of course is that GAE is no more dangerous than Amazon's cloud services. While services like Zonbu, JungleDisk and Twitter all use Amazon as their "cloud platform of choice," we haven't seen the world dropping the DIY Linux server as we know it in response. Perhaps despite any inherent flaws, will Google's GAE end up enhancing Linux adoption on the Web? Only time will tell.
Who Controls Linux in Cloud Computing?
As more businesses find the idea of outsourcing server management attractive while investing that savings into web application development, things can get fuzzy. Does this hurt Linux or help it? Will web applications be the catalyst that attracts the non-Linux users into trying something Linux-based without them realizing it? The list of possibilities seems endless.
I see Linux in cloud computing as a bit of an enigma. Its like a big kid in a digital sandbox that just invited all his friends in to play. The problem is, the big kid in the sandbox forgot to set any ground rules to make sure no one gets hurt.
Since Microsoft, Amazon and Google are all taking to the cloud with their offerings, it feels like anyone else who wishes to play in this digital sandbox will be doing so at their own peril. Sure, the opportunity is there for everyone to participate. But the way these three companies are structuring things makes me feel like the only way anyone can win here is to run software with one of these major service providers.
Any other cloud computing company looking to compete with the GAE concept using Linux already has the deck stacked against them. Google has the brand and the money. Any leftover opportunities within the cloud computing space are likely to be snatched up by Microsoft or Amazon. This means companies looking to create something in this space will have to be clever in order to compete. It will require looking at the weaknesses of the other players, then capitalizing on them.
Still, even if smaller players can work from Google's weaknesses, Google makes cloud computing so easy that anyone can join the revolution as a developer without a lot of extra work. This, I fear, leaves open source initiatives looking to do the same thing with higher ideals, picking up whatever Google leaves behind. With any luck, those open source initiatives will prove me wrong because nothing would make me happier.