Google Could Become the Premier Open-Source Provider

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-07-14 Print this article Print

Google last Monday released Protocol Buffers to the open-source community and before you scream old news hear me out.

This isn't just about the Buffers, which as a faster, less expensive alternative to XML lets programmers write software that exchanges data between servers, index records or geospatial datasets, among other entities.

Google software engineer Kenton Varda explained the catalyst for Buffers: "When we roll out a new version of a server, it almost always has to start out talking to older servers. New servers need to be able to read the data produced by old servers, and vice versa, even if individual fields have been added or removed. When data on disk is involved, this is even more important. Also, some of our code is written in Java or Python, so we need a portable solution."

This keeps the arduous hand coding and serialization routines for each data structure at bay. This efficiency is a no brainer but let's look at the big picture.

Buffers is the latest in a long line of open-source moves Google is making to bolster the broader Web operating system the company is gradually creating to lure millions of programmers and eventually end users to its Web services.

Buffers is clearly for programmers, as is the Google App Engine that lets codeheads write apps in the open source Python language.

Google has also influenced other programmers to fashion open-source versions of its software, namely Apache Hadoop, the open implementation of Google's MapReduce and Google File System platforms. Programmer Douglas Cutting wrote Hadoop and works for Yahoo, which leverages this.

So you can see where this is going. Programmers from all over the world are leveraging open-source code based directly or indirectly on the efforts of Google's army corps of engineers. There was a time when only stalwarts such as Microsoft or Sun could claim this victory.

Just as Microsoft built an empire on Windows and .NET and Sun gained fame from Java and its NetBeans work, Google is increasingly becoming the key development cog for the Web operating system. And it is doing so proudly under the comfort blanket of open-source software.

Google may be loudly bashing Microsoft, Yahoo and other comers over the head in search and online advertising, but it is also stealthily stealing toward these companies' software coops.

The company, banking on the parallel that an open Web needs open-source software, is looking to provide open-source alternatives to the programs from Microsoft and so many other providers.

Protocol Buffers, as an alternative to XML, is just the latest example of this practice, and now programmers can freely leverage it. |

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