Participation in open source projects can be beneficial for companies - why and what it gives

    In September , an article about the importance of open source appeared on the website of the Harvard Business School (HBS) . Its authors say that IT companies that participate in open source projects and make their proprietary software open gain a competitive advantage in the market. We decided to discuss this topic and talk about the pros and cons of such a strategy .

    / Pexels / Syed Abdullah / PD

    Leveling skills

    When company management allows developers to participate in the development of open source projects, employees acquire new practical experience and knowledge. At the same time, developers do not need to be sent to additional trainings or courses. This saves the company money, and programmers learn by solving tasks that are not boring and are useful for the IT community.

    Most of the code - 85% - of the Linux kernel is written by employees of large IT companies. Among them are: Intel, Red Hat, IBM, and others. The developers of the first made 13% of changes in the latest versions of the kernel, the second was "responsible" for 7%, and IBM - for 4%.

    Programmers from these corporations note that working on the kernel allows them to explore Linux from the inside, understand the "insides" of the subsystems, and make a personal contribution to the development of the largest open source project. They later apply the practical skills for solving corporate tasks.

    Acceleration development

    When an enterprise product becomes part of open source (provided that there is a demand for this product in the IT community), the community gradually begins to be formatted around it.

    When in 2005, developer Luke Kanis (Luke Kanies) created the Puppet client-server application, he initially planned to attract users through free software distribution. As a result, it turned out that now 40 thousand companies use its tool for automating OS management , 75 of which are included in the Fortune 100 rating.

    A simple rule applies here: the more people participate in development, the higher the speed of releases. Take, for example, Linux - new versions of the kernel of this OS come out every two months, and updates of other operating systems sometimes have to wait for several years.

    Another example: Google uses the Angular open framework within the company and invests resources in its development. When third-party web developers joined the project, Angular quickly acquired new tools and extensions. Everyone benefited from this.

    Bug Detection

    The growing community allows not only to quickly release new versions of applications, but also helps fix bugs. Due to the fact that the source code of open source software for the presence of vulnerabilities can be viewed by anyone (including security experts), it is considered more secure. And this idea is increasingly finding a “response in the hearts” of various companies.

    / The Flickr / Henri Bergius / CC BY clause-SA

    In August this year, Elon Musk posted on Twitter a record of the intention to make the software that is responsible for the safety of Tesla cars open.

    Critics saythat such statements look like a marketing ploy, supposedly as Ilon is trying to impose his security standard on other manufacturers of unmanned vehicles. But there are those who think that such a decision will help increase the security of Tesla systems. A fresh look of third-party developers will allow to make changes and improvements to the code. Hence, the final product will be more reliable to protect car owners.

    A spoon of tar

    Not all companies are ready to post their proprietary solutions on GitHub. They are convinced that if you transfer the project to open source, you can lose your competitive advantage. There is a chance that there will be analogues, and the project will no longer be unique. For example, Cisco refuses to make its decisions open because they do not want the “secret ingredient” of their products to be made publicly available.

    If the company accepts risks and still wants to bring the software into open source, simply making the software open and watching it develop will not work.
    “If an organization wants to bring its solution to open source just like that, then there will be little confusion,” says Sergey Belkin, head of the infrastructure rental service development department in the cloud . - In order to form a new community around the solution, you will have to do everything the same as for commercial products.

    First of all, understand why your company needs this, and then draw up a roadmap and work out a strategy for developing a software solution. ”

    What is the result

    Opinions about whether companies should engage in open source projects vary. Some see only advantages in this: the ability to “pump over” the skills of employees, accelerate the growth of product popularity, help the IT community and industry. Others are not in a hurry to invest resources in open source because of the fear of "getting lost" in the market.

    There is some truth in both statements, but most of the IT community is convinced that the benefits of supporting open projects outweigh the disadvantages. However, companies need to clearly understand the reasons why they want to become part of the open source community.

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