Ultimate Vendor Lock-In | ✉️ #27

Illustration for MKDEV Dispatch #27 featuring a smiling person holding a pet, with a paper airplane and text "Ultimate Vendor Lock-In" against an orange background with paper planes. Illustration for MKDEV Dispatch #27 featuring a smiling person holding a pet, with a paper airplane and text "Ultimate Vendor Lock-In" against an orange background with paper planes.

Hey! 👋

I am afraid that today it’s again me sharing book recommendations with you. This time though it’s a bit closer to the IT industry than Formula1 (which, actually, is also extremely close to the IT industry, even though primarily on a consumer side of things).

There is a story of Steve Jobs trying to acquire Dropbox shortly after it appeared. Dropbox refused the offer, to which Jobs answered that Dropbox is not a product, it’s a feature. Even though Dropbox’s market cap at the moment of writing is around 10 billions, it does indeed remain in a strange space, where its core offering is something that almost everyone offers as a feature. It’s not, in any case, unique, and it can only compete with others by providing more and better of the same - or to come up with new software features.

The problem with any software products though is that they can be copied. That’s what every Big Tech learned and is trying to do, with varying success. Instagram easily rips off features from Snapchat and TikTok, while Google regularly fails to deliver the competitive offering of, let’s say, a team chat. Still, in theory, every software product is “easy” to copy. Unlike, I guess, some hardware products.

Apple recently announced the first 3nm process chip, used inside iPhone 15 Pro. To be able to produce transistors of this size, it took almost three decades, billions in RnD and involvement of huge companies like Intel, TSMC and others, as well as government support and much more. Even then, the path of ASML to EUV lithography tools was hard a long. But somewhere in the mid 2010s, the first machines were produced, and all of us will get even faster and better chips as a result.

Well, probably not all of us, because, as of today, ASML remains the only company being able to produce those machines - and manage an incredibly complex supply chain, that results in a device that consists of more than 400 000 different parts and costs over $100mln. No one today is able to create a similar machine, and it will take years to create them - at which point ASML will release even better machines. As you can imagine, ASML is located within a certain area of geopolitical influence, thus whoever is friends with that area will be able to benefit from the latest and greatest of semiconductor technology, and everyone else will have to play the very expensive catch up game.

I can’t stop admiring these EUV machines lately, after reading the excellent Chip War book. It’s an incredible human achievement, but also the one that creates an insane vendor lock-in for... well, for everyone in the world. All the Amazon Graviton, Apple Silicon, Nvidia and other advanced chips are produced by one company, with equipment of another company, and are designed with a software from another 2–3 companies - a vendor lock-in and, of course, a single point of failure that I personally realized it exists only in 2023. And those few companies also depend enormously on few other suppliers, like on Carl Zeiss for producing the optics for those EUV machines - optics so complex, that it took almost a decade to develop them, once again something that is hard to just copy and paste.

I love the software world, and how the infrastructure these days is defined primarily by software. But I also love digging deeper, to the layers below that software. After reading the Chip War and understanding those modern lower layers a bit more, everything in the software world looks a bit simpler and trivial.

What We've Shared

On our YouTube channel it's still the Podman month!

And on the website our classic Terraform Lightning Course starts its transformation into text form with the first two lessons:

What We've Discovered

An event reminder

DevOpsDays London 2023 is next week already! On 21-22 of September join us in the UK. Will we give away an iPad, as we did on previous conferences? You bet we will! Get a ticket here and meet us at our table at the conference to find out how to win!

The 28th mkdev dispatch will arrive on Friday, September 29th. See you next time!