Open source is here to stay as a part of the technology landscape and as a development methodology. Many people have coined the new happenings in Open Source Software (OSS) as OSS 2.0.
Brian Fitzgerald was one of the first to do this in his paper on “The Transformation of Open Source” and he talks about some of the key differences in OSS 1.0 and 2.0 such as business models, a more mainstream working model and a fundamental new way of developing software. I am further struck by three very interesting phenomena happening in open source. This was reinforced by events and discussions that I have had in the past few weeks.
- Standard Bodies and OSS
- Companies and Consortia
- Model of Governance
Standard Bodies and OSS:
To get a common way of doing things adopted, we often worked in standards bodies for months or years. There were a lot of discussions, debates and meetings. Finally the standard would be established and more time would pass before it was implemented. It is becoming the norm today to introduce an element that you want to standardize around in the form of implementation and code into open source even before you introduce the idea into standards bodies.
It serves as a test-bed to see if it gets adopted but more importantly it goes through practical peer review and feedback. Unlike months of discussion and debate in meetings, it goes through a road test to see if it is viable. An accepted and well-tested-implementation can get submitted to the standards body later to become a standard. I see this more and more. And the other norm is bypassing standards all together and just putting the implementation into open source to become a default standard through adoption. As we move forward, both vehicles need to be considered when creating or initiating a standard and SanDisk® and other companies are paying attention to this.
Companies and Consortia:
Jim Zemlin in the Linux Conference keynote this year talked about it being the age of consortia and foundations. There is one for everything important from the web to cloud to the Internet of Things (IoT). They allow companies who would otherwise be competitors to come together with development communities to rally around a common problem, industry or movement. See the wide variety in Jim’s slide below. At SanDisk, we are a member of the Linux Foundation as it has been a key organization for moving Linux and open source forwards.
The other type of rallying cry was made by Facebook at the @scale conference last week in San Francisco. Called TODO – “Talk Openly and Do Openly”, it is aimed at getting companies together to work openly on common problems. Companies like Facebook, Google have tremendous scale of data, compute and need projects to both scale and be production-ready. They are willing to do the work and share the results with other similar companies. The competition comes from the services and user experience delivered and not on the infrastructure itself. You can find more in this Gigaom announcement and at ToDo’s site.
When you work across competitors and community and are moving fast, the issue of the right governance models often comes up. Traditional commercial models have product managers who drive requirements and roadmaps with a mostly captive engineering team often in one company. But it is a lot harder to drive strategy and cohesion when you are working across hundreds of companies all with different objectives, with open source communities with distributed teams and hundreds of projects at work. This is the challenge many organizations like the OpenStack foundation are facing. The recent one day summit was held here in Silicon Valley on the state of OpenStack.
I commend the organization on healthy self-examination on how to move forward as they scale. OpenStack has come very far in a short 4 years and has done many things right. But with the scale of operation under its umbrella, it is fair to question what the right mode is for the future. Is it to be a benevolent dictator like Linus or use more of a commercial model with product managers for each key sub area and a core team that drives the direction closely? Should every member have equal say? What to accept and what to say no to? How do customer voices get heard?All good questions which OpenStack and others asked and are working through.
My challenge for myself in the open source office is how to work with communities and ecosystems inside and outside the company as we develop and move forward. Development models today and in the future are no longer done just inside the company. It is done with partners and open source projects and has to take these various constituents into account to be effective. This is a key part of my job in managing the Open Source office at SanDisk.
OSS 2.0 is more grown-up today and is used in serious production deployments of massive scale. It has evolved to support new technology disruptions and the scale needed for Cloud, IoT, WebScale services and mobile. It is not the OSS of 1998 when I started working with open source at Silicon Graphics. Evolution is a necessary action to thrive and grow and we as users will also need to evolve with it.