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Why Developers Don’t Trust Hyperscalers

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Linode recently commissioned a report (download the report for free)to understand the importance of trust among developers when it comes to choosing the ‘right’ cloud provider. The findings of this report clearly aligned with the view many experts have in space. One of the biggest fears developers have is that hyperscalers will use their data against them to create competing products and put them out of business. Stephanie Fairchild, Senior Analyst at ClearPath Strategies, strongly believes that some of these issues should be table stakes when companies choose cloud providers. Watch the whole video to gain further insight into the issue from Fairchild.

Here is an edited transcript of the discussion by Jack Wallen

Swapnil Bhartiya: Welcome to TFiR Insights! I’m your host Swapnil Bhartiya and my next guest is Stephanie Fairchild, Senior Analyst at ClearPath Strategies. Stephanie, it’s great to have you on the show. ClearPath Strategies recently conducted research in collaboration with Linode to explore the trust developers have in their cloud providers. But before we deep dive into that research, I would love to know a bit about the company and your own background.

Stephanie Fairchild: So at ClearPath, we offer strategic consulting, campaign expertise, and public opinion research for world game-changing leaders. I particularly work in the tech sector. And we work with game changers, leaders and progressive forces out there.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Tell me a bit more about the research. The topic, the methodology, who did you talk to, and what is the role of trust for developers in choosing a cloud provider? 

Stephanie Fairchild: So we talked to people who were professional developers, independent developers, and just a smattering of developer enthusiasts to get a wide range of samples to see where people were looking for their cloud hosting provider, who they were choosing, and why? We were also looking to define trust. So what does trust mean? Is it trust in functionality? Is it trust in values? So we asked a battery of questions to help both define and understand how trust played a role in how people choose their cloud provider.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Before we discuss how developers define trust, I want to know how you would define trust?

Stephanie Fairchild: We weren’t actually trying to define trust. We wanted to understand how developers defined it. We asked a range of questions about trust in performance, trust in security, trust in functionality, as well as trust related to more value-related measures. So trusting cloud hosting providers to not take advantage of you; trust that they wouldn’t host companies that were morally objectionable, things like that. And so we define trust very broadly. And then just allow the data to guide us in that way.

Swapnil Bhartiya: How did they define trust? Or what does it mean to them?

Stephanie Fairchild: We allow them to define trust in a lot of different ways. We asked just probably 30 different measures of trust, and those ranged from again, trust in performance, trust in functionality, trust in security; so more like performance-related measures, as well as those trust in values (Do you align with the things that I believe? Are you aligned with things that I stand for?). And so we just gathered that information from these developers that we spoke to, to understand where trust plays a role in how they select their cloud hosting provider? And does it play a role? And if so, how large? So that was essentially the role of the survey.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Beyond this? Is there any other finding that made you say like, whoa, we were not expecting that?

Stephanie Fairchild: So there were some interesting things. And I think that what we really found was that trust actually does indeed play an important role and developer’s choice of a cloud hosting provider. That trust, as defined in this instance, is trust in the provider meeting their needs. So are they going to deliver industry-standard security? Are they going to scale infinitely with their infrastructure? Are they going to offer transparent pricing? We found that those are the trust measures that are probably the most important for developers when choosing a cloud provider. And we looked really deeply at the differences between the Big 3 hyperscalers – AWS, GCP and Azure versus smaller providers like Linode or Digital Ocean. And so the main questions that we asked were : Do developers trust the hyperscalers and how important is that to their choice? So what we did find is that yes, trust plays a role. Developers will choose companies that meet their needs first, but it doesn’t mean that trust and a sort of alignment of values is not important. So those are some of the discoveries we made. We found that when prioritizing needs or values, developers reported that they actually prioritize their needs, over their values, three-quarters of the time. So about 73% of the time, they would prioritize their needs over their values.

Swapnil Bhartiya: I have talked to a lot of folks who use other alternative cloud providers or even the Big 3, and one of the things, especially when they work in the open-source space, is that they choose a cloud provider based on the fact that their values are aligned with those of the cloud providers as well. And sometimes that actually supersedes the trust. They might have the scale at which the hyperscalers can operate, but they don’t really care about all those things. What they do care about is, hey, our values are the same. So can you talk about the value aspect as well?

Stephanie Fairchild: We found that with many people, trust in their values, their alignment of values, did play a large role. And there were cracks in the surface of those hyperscalers in that realm. So developers tended to, on average, choose cloud hosting providers that met their needs. That role of trust in their values was important to them. So what the survey really revealed was that although these SMB developers voice trust in the provider of choice, in general, a deeper examination of their values uncovers that trust and values issue when it comes to those major cloud providers.

So I think what’s really interesting is that at least a fifth or more of the developers we surveyed believed that the Big 3 hyperscalers are going to fail in measures of their values. They believe that the hyperscalers are going to leverage their brand to stifle competition. They believe they’re going to focus on their shareholders’ needs more than their own needs, more than the developers’ needs. They’re going to host or work with companies that these developers find morally objectionable. They’re going to monetize their data for their own use. So the hyperscalers will use the data the developers create and then monetize it for their own use without their permission. They’re going to lock them in with proprietary tools and they’re going to compete against them and put them out of business. They’re going to actually take their proprietary information, recreate it and sell it as their own. And then the other measure that was scoring pretty highly here was that they’re going to take advantage of these developers.

These issues should be table stakes and no company should be failing when there’s a question of being taken advantage of, when there’s a question of monetizing someone else’s data or leveraging your brand to stifle competition. And I think that where we see the slipping in the realm of the Big 3 is in these value measures. And that’s what our data actually showed. So it seems like these types of values-related trust measures should be table stakes. But at least in the survey that we conducted with our developers, those developers do feel that there is a reason to withhold trust in particularly the Big 3 hyperscalers in relation to their trust in their values. I think that’s really good news for smaller providers, like Linode. The developers that we spoke to indicated that small providers do tend to match on measures of performance and security. So those are really low-bar measures that you as a provider will need to provide to meet the needs of these developers. Small providers do tend to match them on these measures, but they are more trustworthy on measures of values. So that’s where there’s an opening for smaller providers to get a foot in the door by showing where they are aligned with developers on values.

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