Click here to close now.


Open Source Cloud Authors: David Dodd, AppDynamics Blog, Flint Brenton, SmartBear Blog, Sanjay Zalavadia

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
  • 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
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

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
  • 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
  • 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
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 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 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.

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

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
Cloud computing delivers on-demand resources that provide businesses with flexibility and cost-savings. The challenge in moving workloads to the cloud has been the cost and complexity of ensuring the initial and ongoing security and regulatory (PCI, HIPAA, FFIEC) compliance across private and public clouds. Manual security compliance is slow, prone to human error, and represents over 50% of the cost of managing cloud applications. Determining how to automate cloud security compliance is critical to maintaining positive ROI. Raxak Protect is an automated security compliance SaaS platform and ma...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data shows "less than 10 percent of IoT developers are making enough to support a reasonably sized team....
Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York and Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound cha...
DevOps is about increasing efficiency, but nothing is more inefficient than building the same application twice. However, this is a routine occurrence with enterprise applications that need both a rich desktop web interface and strong mobile support. With recent technological advances from Isomorphic Software and others, rich desktop and tuned mobile experiences can now be created with a single codebase – without compromising functionality, performance or usability. In his session at DevOps Summit, Charles Kendrick, CTO and Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, demonstrated examples of com...
As organizations realize the scope of the Internet of Things, gaining key insights from Big Data, through the use of advanced analytics, becomes crucial. However, IoT also creates the need for petabyte scale storage of data from millions of devices. A new type of Storage is required which seamlessly integrates robust data analytics with massive scale. These storage systems will act as “smart systems” provide in-place analytics that speed discovery and enable businesses to quickly derive meaningful and actionable insights. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Paul Turner, Chief Marketing Officer at...
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
In his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Adobe Campaign, explored the key ingredients of cross-channel marketing in a digital world. Learn how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects).
We all know that data growth is exploding and storage budgets are shrinking. Instead of showing you charts on about how much data there is, in his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Scott Cleland, Senior Director of Product Marketing at HGST, showed how to capture all of your data in one place. After you have your data under control, you can then analyze it in one place, saving time and resources.
The Internet of Everything is re-shaping technology trends–moving away from “request/response” architecture to an “always-on” Streaming Web where data is in constant motion and secure, reliable communication is an absolute necessity. As more and more THINGS go online, the challenges that developers will need to address will only increase exponentially. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Todd Greene, Founder & CEO of PubNub, exploreed the current state of IoT connectivity and review key trends and technology requirements that will drive the Internet of Things from hype to reality.
Two weeks ago (November 3-5), I attended the Cloud Expo Silicon Valley as a speaker, where I presented on the security and privacy due diligence requirements for cloud solutions. Cloud security is a topical issue for every CIO, CISO, and technology buyer. Decision-makers are always looking for insights on how to mitigate the security risks of implementing and using cloud solutions. Based on the presentation topics covered at the conference, as well as the general discussions heard between sessions, I wanted to share some of my observations on emerging trends. As cyber security serves as a fou...
With all the incredible momentum behind the Internet of Things (IoT) industry, it is easy to forget that not a single CEO wakes up and wonders if “my IoT is broken.” What they wonder is if they are making the right decisions to do all they can to increase revenue, decrease costs, and improve customer experience – effectively the same challenges they have always had in growing their business. The exciting thing about the IoT industry is now these decisions can be better, faster, and smarter. Now all corporate assets – people, objects, and spaces – can share information about themselves and thei...
Continuous processes around the development and deployment of applications are both impacted by -- and a benefit to -- the Internet of Things trend. To help better understand the relationship between DevOps and a plethora of new end-devices and data please welcome Gary Gruver, consultant, author and a former IT executive who has led many large-scale IT transformation projects, and John Jeremiah, Technology Evangelist at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), on Twitter at @j_jeremiah. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
Discussions of cloud computing have evolved in recent years from a focus on specific types of cloud, to a world of hybrid cloud, and to a world dominated by the APIs that make today's multi-cloud environments and hybrid clouds possible. In this Power Panel at 17th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the importance of customers being able to use the specific technologies they need, through environments and ecosystems that expose their APIs to make true change and transformation possible.
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound effect on the world, and what should we expect to see over the next couple of years.
Microservices are a very exciting architectural approach that many organizations are looking to as a way to accelerate innovation. Microservices promise to allow teams to move away from monolithic "ball of mud" systems, but the reality is that, in the vast majority of organizations, different projects and technologies will continue to be developed at different speeds. How to handle the dependencies between these disparate systems with different iteration cycles? Consider the "canoncial problem" in this scenario: microservice A (releases daily) depends on a couple of additions to backend B (re...
The cloud. Like a comic book superhero, there seems to be no problem it can’t fix or cost it can’t slash. Yet making the transition is not always easy and production environments are still largely on premise. Taking some practical and sensible steps to reduce risk can also help provide a basis for a successful cloud transition. A plethora of surveys from the likes of IDG and Gartner show that more than 70 percent of enterprises have deployed at least one or more cloud application or workload. Yet a closer inspection at the data reveals less than half of these cloud projects involve production...
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Day 2 Keynote at 17th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, wil...
PubNub has announced the release of BLOCKS, a set of customizable microservices that give developers a simple way to add code and deploy features for realtime apps.PubNub BLOCKS executes business logic directly on the data streaming through PubNub’s network without splitting it off to an intermediary server controlled by the customer. This revolutionary approach streamlines app development, reduces endpoint-to-endpoint latency, and allows apps to better leverage the enormous scalability of PubNub’s Data Stream Network.