Editor's Note: This article is paid for by Intel as a platinum-level sponsor of the Linux Foundation's Collaboration Summit conference and was written by Linux.com.
Intel has been a leader in the Linux kernel community for almost two decades – and was named the no. 1 corporate contributor to the kernel for 2014, according to the recent Who Writes Linux report. The company’s influence also extends into the broader open source community, where Intel stands out as a model for how to effectively engage in projects and incorporate open source strategy into product development.
As enterprises increasingly turn to open source practices to remain competitive in the global economy, they often cite Intel's long-standing open source program as a goal for their own efforts. When it comes to navigating open source communities, license compliance, developer recruitment, and other challenges specific to open source participation, Intel has the process dialed in – and for good reason.
“Open source is a strategic advantage for us,” said Mauri Whalen, Intel vice president and director of Core System Development in Intel's Open Source Technology Center. “To take advantage of strategy and innovation that happens in the community is very important.”
Why Intel Invests in Open Source
First and foremost, participating in open source communities allows Intel to optimize its silicon to the many ways that customers use it, Whalen said. By working with users across open source communities, Intel can develop features that allow its customers' software to take full advantage of the CPUs, chipsets and other Intel hardware.
Being deeply involved in open source also gives Intel early visibility into new and innovative projects and features, she said. Intel can move quickly to ensure its own software and hardware enable these new trends and stay on the leading edge of technology.
“Everybody is building products based on open source, and if you're not out in the communities and not out collaborating all of this software is going to go on without you,” Whalen said. “Your code isn't going to get out there, and you won't take advantage of what others are doing that might make your software even better on your hardware.”
When Intel releases its own code and contributes to upstream projects, it allows Intel customers to get to market faster and with less cost by using code that Intel has already created – another strategic advantage for Intel.
“They don't have to recreate the wheel because of the work done by open source developers at Intel,” Whalen said. “That part of the development is already done and the cost is sunk. When they have the code, they can maintain it, which is an advantage for the customer.”
Intel investment in open source development stretches back to the early 90s and continues today through participation in several Linux Foundation collaborative projects such as the Yocto Project, OpenDaylight, and Iotivity – and continues to prove an effective strategy. Companies just getting started in open source can learn from Intel's lead.
Advice for companies new to open source
It's been more than 15 years since Intel created its first Linux-based consumer device. The company has learned a lot about open source software and collaborative development since then.
But those just getting started don't have the luxury of waiting 15 years to learn about open source. Today’s market demands a fast education.
Whalen's advice for companies that are just starting to participate in open source? Take the time to learn how open source development works. Learn how to participate in a community and be a good community member, and then contribute, she said.
Start by networking with developers and other companies already doing open source in your industry, she advises. Talk to the people working on projects you'll be contributing to.
“One of the best ways to do this is by attending conferences,” Whalen said. “The Linux community puts on so many conferences through the Linux Foundation, for example. You can get a wealth of information by going to these events and seeing what other people are doing and how they're using open source to their advantage.”
Other suggestions: Ask how you will benefit from contributing to a community. Learn about how open source licenses work. Find and learn the best development tools and methods.
“I always find people in the community are extremely receptive to talking about how we should be working together,” Whalen said.
If you don't have time to do the research yourself and you have the means, hire someone experienced in open source development to lead your efforts, she said.
“Open source is a collaborative environment,” she said. “Learn from others.”