It’s hard to believe we live in a world where a game such as “Goat Simulator” can manage to find an audience in an industry brimming with AAA titles including “Destiny 2,” “Overwatch” and “Call of Duty,” but we do. “Goat Simulator” was a massive success, but none of that would been possible in a pre-Steam world.
Before Valve launched Steam Greenlight, and subsequently Steam Direct, the indie game community was a shell of what it is today. The path to market for independent game developers was very limited up until that point, allowing the likes of Electronic Arts, Square Enix and Nintendo to dictate the future of the industry as a whole. While only apparent in hindsight, the state of the market wasn’t only impacting game developers, it was limiting the choices of the gamers themselves.
The state of cloud services today is almost identical to what we saw among indie game developers prior to the launch of Steam Greenlight. Amazon, Microsoft and Google have established a cloud monopoly, but they don’t have a monopoly on innovation. This has forced developers to play by the monoclouds’ rules and live within their walled gardens, sacrificing quality and performance for cost and convenience.
This ultimately undermines the prime directive of DevOps, by limiting an organization’s ability to map software investments and architecturing to its business objectives. The phrase “one size fits all” has no place in the world of DevOps, but if Amazon and the other cloud titans have their way, Dev and Ops teams will have no choice but to do their best with an increasingly ubiquitous set of solutions.
Sure, there are breakout success stories among developer service startups including Twilio, MongoDB, New Relic and SendGrid, but for every developer service that manages to get off the ground, there are at least 10 that die on the vine. Why should the future of the cloud, which is arguably the biggest technological advancement since the internet, be shaped by companies known for retail, search and hardware? It shouldn’t.
Developers need their own Steam moment, and it wouldn’t just benefit DevOps teams, it would benefit businesses and make the market more competitive overall. The developer equivalent of “Goat Simulator” is out there, waiting to go viral, except instead of letting you control a four-hooved wrecking ball, it lets you hunt down expensive N+1 queries or configure RabbitMQ clusters.
Get Ready for the Steam Moment
So what does developer’s Steam moment look like? It all starts with discovery.
Developer startups will never be able to compete with the economy of scale that a company such as Amazon possesses. The resources behind AWS allow the company to pump out comparable solutions to emerging developer favorites before they have a chance to reach a mainstream audience, which results in the death of far too many promising startups. Even with superior technology, they simply can’t keep up with Amazon’s spend on sales and marketing, which allow them to manufacture user bases overnight. If we applied this state of affairs to gaming, and Steam hadn’t existed in 2014, games such as “Goat Simulator,” “PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS” or “Stardew Valley” would have easily been co-opted by a major game studio right when they were on the verge of taking off.
To correct course, cloud service startups need a platform for connecting them with their audience, whether they offer a solution that will be useful to 100 or 100,000 developers around the world. However, to make this possible, developers and operations teams need to gain a voice during the procurement process before their executives make their way to AWS re:Invent to be wooed by flashy sales pitches and $50 steaks.
But, that is only step one. DevOps teams need to do their research and point management toward solutions that reside outside of the monocloud hierarchy. Even if the developer equivalent of Steam exists, that doesn’t guarantee non-technical executives will find it, which is why developers not only must vocalize the solutions they need, but also where to find them. Contrary to popular belief, even if you build it, they don’t always come, and if the developer community remains quiet, we can forget about having our own Steam moment.
I’m glad we don’t live in the timeline where a goat simulation can turn into a viable business, and hopeful our cloud future won’t be dictated by the likes of Amazon and Microsoft. Our Steam moment hasn’t happened yet, but if developer and operations teams join forces to demand a better alternative to the one-size-fits-all approach, it could be just around the corner.