Welcome!

Open Source Cloud Authors: Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz, Mano Marks, Jason Bloomberg, Derek Weeks

Related Topics: Open Source Cloud

Open Source Cloud: Article

Good and Bad Reasons to Open Source Your Software

How do you measure up?

A company's decision to contribute to open source projects is usually business-driven. This article offers a review of the top reasons that can influence your company to contribute source code to open source or to start new open source projects.

1.  Provide a reference implementation to a standard:
Open source is a potential venue to launch reference implementations of a specification or standard, with the added benefit that such implementations can gain faster acceptance than if they were kept proprietary. Examples of companies that launched open source projects to provide a reference implementation to a standard include:

  • Motorola, which open sourced its high-availability middleware stack, called OpenSAF, to provide a reference implementation to the Service Availability Forum specifications. For more information on OpenSAF visit www.opensaf.org/.
  • And Ericsson, which open sourced the Transparent Inter-Process Communication (TIPC) protocol to provide a reference implementation for the Linux Foundation Carrier Grade Linux specification version 2.0. Today TIPC is integrated into the Linux kernel. For more information on TIPC visit http://tipc.sourceforge.net/.
2.  Ensure that critical software remains viable:
If you use an open source project and need to ensure that it continues to progress, remains active, and attracts new contributors, it's important that your company step in and start contributing. If you're already a contributor, you may want to increase the level of your contributions and possibly take a leading role in the project and motivate others to contribute by making the project interesting and challenging.

3.  Ensure that new features are implemented
("scratch your own itch"): If you're using open source code and realize that you'd like a certain capability implemented, the best way to get it done is to do it yourself. Leveraging open source happens when others share the same "itch." However, don't expect a project community to implement features that are of interest only to you. One example of "scratching your own itch" is Motorola implementing and open sourcing Precise Process Accounting (PPA) functionalities, a Linux kernel patch that improves the accounting of CPU and scheduling activities in carrier-grade servers and results in increased performance, capacity, and reliability. For more information on PPA visit http://sourceforge.net/projects/ppacc/.

4.  Take control of your own destiny:
In many cases, companies create open source projects or support existing open source projects in the hopes that these projects become successful, thrive, and eventually become viable alternatives to the proprietary solutions of commercial software vendors. This allows such companies to reduce or eliminate commercial vendor "lock-in".

5.  Undercut the competition:
Companies can use open source software to reduce their development costs by sharing these costs with others. Moreover, they can collaborate with the open source community and reuse open source components to accelerate the development of their products and reduce time-to-market. As a result, open source can provide cost and cycle time advantages with respect to the competition.

6.  Commoditize a market:
When open source software meets the requirements of most users, the effect is to commoditize a market, reducing the pricing power of commercial vendors. For instance, free or low-cost Linux distributions have disrupted the market for Unix-based operating systems; as a result, traditional Unix vendors such as Sun and IBM have shifted focus to offer services. As a company, you may be interested in commoditizing a market to benefit yourself (via lower costs) or to put your competitor in a difficult situation.

7.  Partner with others and promote goodwill for your company in the developer community:
There are many examples of companies that work with the open source community and contribute to open source projects to advance projects as well as promote themselves as good open source citizens that not only use open source but also contribute. By doing so, such companies are establishing a relationship with their software suppliers, which, in this case, are open source software developers. Examples of such companies include:

  • Motorola, which developed a Web portal to foster collaboration between Motorola and the open source community http://opensource.motorola.com.
  • IBM, which was one of the early adopters and supporters of open source and its significant participation and collaboration with the open source community is highly regarded and respected. To access IBM's open source zone visit www-128.ibm.com/developerworks/opensource.
  • And Nokia, which has successfully partnered with the open source community to develop its Linux-based Internet tablets, the N770 and N800. For more information visit www.maemo.org/.
8.  Drive market demand by building an ecosystem:
Open source software and the open source community can help companies create an ecosystem around their products and, as a result, drive market demand.
  • Motorola has launched the MOTODEV initiative, which provides comprehensive resources to developers and enables developers to create applications for Motorola devices, leading to higher demand for Motorola products. See http://developer.motorola.com/ for details.
  • Hardware vendors such as AMD and Intel have partnered with the open source community to create code enabling their hardware and chips to work with Linux, increasing demand for their hardware.
9.  Offer your customers the ability to support themselves and add custom features for them:
This is a great approach to work with your customers, allowing them to contribute to your product development and help them support themselves.
  • Motorola is partnering with the open source community to translate the interface of its A1200 cellular phone (Motorola Ming) into different languages. See http://opensource.motorola.com for details.
... And the Three Worst Reasons
Open sourcing your software isn't always the best business strategy. This section reviews some of the worst reasons you can have to open source a particular technology or create a new open source project:
  1. You have obsolete software that you want to get rid of and you think that open sourcing it is a good way to get rid of it.
  2. You're looking to leverage free engineering from the open source community and by open sourcing you think open source developers will lineup to contribute to your project.
  3. You have software that you don't need anymore and instead of terminating the project or canceling it, you decide to open source it and then call it a win.
To be successful in open sourcing a project, you must have the right reasons or motivations. Furthermore, it's always recommended to do due diligence: If there's any other open source project with which your project might compete then study the opportunity to join and contribute to that project. Otherwise, you'll be creating competition and, in the spirit of open source, the strongest and best project wins mainstream.

Conclusion
There are many reasons to contribute to open source and there are various benefits to be realized from such engagements. In all cases, it's important to remember that it's a "give and take" relationship: be a good open source citizen, contribute to the community in good faith, and respect and follow community practices.

In a follow-up article, we'll discuss the process to follow after you decide to contribute such as selecting a license, doing a legal review, understanding the intellectual property implications, training employees, building a project infrastructure, announcing the project, following the open source development model, being visible, and being a good open source citizen driving the success of your project.

Stay tuned!

More Stories By Ibrahim Haddad

Ibrahim Haddad is a member of the management team at The Linux Foundation responsible for technical, legal and compliance projects and initiatives. Prior to that, he ran the Open Source Office at Palm, the Open Source Technology Group at Motorola, and Global Telecommunications Initiatives at The Open Source Development Labs. Ibrahim started his career as a member of the research team at Ericsson Research focusing on advanced research for system architecture of 3G wireless IP networks and on the adoption of open source software in telecom. Ibrahim graduated from Concordia University (Montréal, Canada) with a Ph.D. in Computer Science. He is a Contributing Editor to the Linux Journal. Ibrahim is fluent in Arabic, English and French. He can be reached via http://www.IbrahimHaddad.com.

More Stories By Frederic Benard

Dr. Frédéric Bénard is Engineering Manager at Motorola and leads the Open Source Software Center of Excellence, which is part of the Motorola "Embedded Systems, Open Source and Linux Technology Group". He holds a B.Sc. in Physics from McGill University, a M.Sc. and a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Toronto, and an MBA from McGill University.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
In the next five to ten years, millions, if not billions of things will become smarter. This smartness goes beyond connected things in our homes like the fridge, thermostat and fancy lighting, and into heavily regulated industries including aerospace, pharmaceutical/medical devices and energy. “Smartness” will embed itself within individual products that are part of our daily lives. We will engage with smart products - learning from them, informing them, and communicating with them. Smart produc...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Catchpoint, a leading digital experience intelligence company, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Catchpoint Systems is a leading Digital Performance Analytics company that provides unparalleled insight into your customer-critical services to help you consistently deliver an amazing customer experience. Designed for digital business, C...
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smart...
WebRTC sits at the intersection between VoIP and the Web. As such, it poses some interesting challenges for those developing services on top of it, but also for those who need to test and monitor these services. In his session at WebRTC Summit, Tsahi Levent-Levi, co-founder of testRTC, reviewed the various challenges posed by WebRTC when it comes to testing and monitoring and on ways to overcome them.
The emerging Internet of Everything creates tremendous new opportunities for customer engagement and business model innovation. However, enterprises must overcome a number of critical challenges to bring these new solutions to market. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Martin, CTO/CIO at nfrastructure, outlined these key challenges and recommended approaches for overcoming them to achieve speed and agility in the design, development and implementation of Internet of Everything solutions with...
Every successful software product evolves from an idea to an enterprise system. Notably, the same way is passed by the product owner's company. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Oleg Lola, CEO of MobiDev, will provide a generalized overview of the evolution of a software product, the product owner, the needs that arise at various stages of this process, and the value brought by a software development partner to the product owner as a response to these needs.
In 2014, Amazon announced a new form of compute called Lambda. We didn't know it at the time, but this represented a fundamental shift in what we expect from cloud computing. Now, all of the major cloud computing vendors want to take part in this disruptive technology. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, John Jelinek IV, a web developer at Linux Academy, will discuss why major players like AWS, Microsoft Azure, IBM Bluemix, and Google Cloud Platform are all trying to sidestep VMs and containers...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev, a client-oriented software development company, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MobiDev is a software company that develops and delivers turn-key mobile apps, websites, web services, and complex softw...
Smart Cities are here to stay, but for their promise to be delivered, the data they produce must not be put in new siloes. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mathias Herberts, Co-founder and CTO of Cityzen Data, discussed the best practices that will ensure a successful smart city journey.
Technology vendors and analysts are eager to paint a rosy picture of how wonderful IoT is and why your deployment will be great with the use of their products and services. While it is easy to showcase successful IoT solutions, identifying IoT systems that missed the mark or failed can often provide more in the way of key lessons learned. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Peter Vanderminden, Principal Industry Analyst for IoT & Digital Supply Chain to Flatiron Strategies, will focus on how IoT depl...
Big Data, cloud, analytics, contextual information, wearable tech, sensors, mobility, and WebRTC: together, these advances have created a perfect storm of technologies that are disrupting and transforming classic communications models and ecosystems. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Erik Perotti, Senior Manager of New Ventures on Plantronics’ Innovation team, provided an overview of this technological shift, including associated business and consumer communications impacts, and opportunities it m...
Manufacturers are embracing the Industrial Internet the same way consumers are leveraging Fitbits – to improve overall health and wellness. Both can provide consistent measurement, visibility, and suggest performance improvements customized to help reach goals. Fitbit users can view real-time data and make adjustments to increase their activity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mark Bernardo Professional Services Leader, Americas, at GE Digital, discussed how leveraging the Industrial Internet and...
"Tintri was started in 2008 with the express purpose of building a storage appliance that is ideal for virtualized environments. We support a lot of different hypervisor platforms from VMware to OpenStack to Hyper-V," explained Dan Florea, Director of Product Management at Tintri, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
There will be new vendors providing applications, middleware, and connected devices to support the thriving IoT ecosystem. This essentially means that electronic device manufacturers will also be in the software business. Many will be new to building embedded software or robust software. This creates an increased importance on software quality, particularly within the Industrial Internet of Things where business-critical applications are becoming dependent on products controlled by software. Qua...
Fact is, enterprises have significant legacy voice infrastructure that’s costly to replace with pure IP solutions. How can we bring this analog infrastructure into our shiny new cloud applications? There are proven methods to bind both legacy voice applications and traditional PSTN audio into cloud-based applications and services at a carrier scale. Some of the most successful implementations leverage WebRTC, WebSockets, SIP and other open source technologies. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Da...
A critical component of any IoT project is what to do with all the data being generated. This data needs to be captured, processed, structured, and stored in a way to facilitate different kinds of queries. Traditional data warehouse and analytical systems are mature technologies that can be used to handle certain kinds of queries, but they are not always well suited to many problems, particularly when there is a need for real-time insights.
In his General Session at 16th Cloud Expo, David Shacochis, host of The Hybrid IT Files podcast and Vice President at CenturyLink, investigated three key trends of the “gigabit economy" though the story of a Fortune 500 communications company in transformation. Narrating how multi-modal hybrid IT, service automation, and agile delivery all intersect, he will cover the role of storytelling and empathy in achieving strategic alignment between the enterprise and its information technology.
IoT is at the core or many Digital Transformation initiatives with the goal of re-inventing a company's business model. We all agree that collecting relevant IoT data will result in massive amounts of data needing to be stored. However, with the rapid development of IoT devices and ongoing business model transformation, we are not able to predict the volume and growth of IoT data. And with the lack of IoT history, traditional methods of IT and infrastructure planning based on the past do not app...
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, discussed the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to focus o...