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While Facebook's $1bn acquisition of Instagram may be the biggest red flag yet that we're in a bubble once again, one thing is certain: when the bubble deflates or bursts, countless companies and start-ups yet to be born will come away with more than they came to the party with.

That's because the latest internet boom has brought us a new generation of companies that open source many of the tools and technologies they build to solve their biggest challenges.

Facebook, of course, is one of the biggest examples of such a company. It has contributed immensely to popular projects like memcached, and has open sourced everything from a PHP-to-C++ compiler to server designs.

But Facebook isn't alone. Other upstarts, like Twitter, have been proactive in taking some of their technologies and offering them up for others to use. The impact of these contributions cannot be understated, as they help other start-ups with fewer resources do things they otherwise may not have been able to do on their own.

And the trend of open sourcing technologies and tools is only getting stronger thanks to the Facebook and Twitters of the world. Case in point: last week, Netflix announced that it is going to be open sourcing its 'Simian Army', a suite of cloud software applications that Netflix uses to keep its Amazon AWS-based architecture running smoothly.

This army includes:

  • A Conformity Monkey, which scans the Netflix cloud, shutting down server instances that don't conform to "best-practices."
  • A Janitor Monkey that, as the name implies, is responsible for cleaning up where there's cleaning up to do.
  • A Security Monkey that looks for and resolves security vulnerabilities.
  • A Chaos Monkey that randomly terminates server instances in an effort to verify that a real outage won't take the Netflix service down.

According to Netflix's director of cloud architecture Adrian Cockcroft, the company plans to release "pretty much all of our platform, including the Monkey infrastructure, over the rest of this year."

That, as Wired's Robert McMillan hints, might seem like a risky move that could reduce Netflix's competitive advantage - but it's one that the company sees plenty of upside in:

Open-source helps Netflix stay in touch with other cloud developers and keeps the company’s practices in-line with what others are doing. That’s important, because Netflix doesn’t want to become a strange outlier in the cloud revolution; it wants to be a leader.

But the open-source program is also a pretty good recruiting tool, Cockcroft admits.”The big objective for us in going out and talking about this was, we like to hire the very best people in the industry,” he says. “People have to know that you’re doing interesting stuff.”

Whether Netflix will benefit as much from the open sourcing of its technologies as it hopes it will remains to be seen, but the company's move is good news for the Amazon AWS ecosystem, as the thousands upon thousands of companies using Amazon AWS will soon have access to the tools that help keep one of the internet's biggest stars running smoothly.

Patricio Robles

Published 16 April, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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