May 17, 2017

Google’s New Home for All Things Open Source Runs Deep


Open source practices
Google recently launched a new home for its open source projects, processes, and initiatives. We look at some of the highlights.

Google is not only one of the biggest contributors to the open source community but also has a strong track record of delivering open source tools and platforms that give birth to robust technology ecosystems. Just witness the momentum that Android and Kubernetes now have. Recently, Google launched a new home for its open source projects, processes, and initiatives. The site runs deep and has several avenues worth investigating. Here is a tour and some highlights worth noting.

Will Norris, a software engineer at Google's Open Source Programs Office, writes: “One of the tenets of our philosophy towards releasing open source code is that ‘more is better.’ We don't know which projects will find an audience, so we help teams release code whenever possible. As a result, we have released thousands of projects under open source licenses ranging from larger products like TensorFlow, Go, and Kubernetes to smaller projects such as Light My Piano, Neuroglancer, and Some are fully supported while others are experimental or just for fun. With so many projects spread across 100 GitHub organizations and our self-hosted Git service, it can be difficult to see the scope and scale of our open source footprint.”

Projects. The new directory of open source projects, which is rapidly expanding, is one of the richest parts of the Google Open Source site. If you investigate many of the projects, you can find out how they are used at Google.  A pull-down menu conveniently categorizes the many projects, so that you can investigate, for example, cloud, mobile or artificial intelligence tools. Animated graphics also shuffle between projects that you may not be aware of but might be interested in. Here is an example of one of these graphics:

Do you know about Cloud Network Monitoring Agent, or Minimal Configuration Manager? The Projects section of Google’s site is where you can discover tools like these.

Docs. One of the most compelling components of Google’s new home for all things open source is a section called Docs, which is billed as “our internal documentation for how we do open source at Google." From open source contributors and developers to companies implementing open source programs, this section of Google’s site has a motherlode of tested and hardened information. There are three primary sections of the docs:

  • Creating covers how Google developers release code that they've written, either in the form of a new project or as a patch to an external project.

  • Using explains how Google brings open source code into the company and uses it. It delves into maintaining license compliance, and more.

  • Growing describes some of the programs Google runs inside and outside the company to support open source communities.

According to Norris: "These docs explain the process we follow for releasing new open-source projects, submitting patches to others' projects, and how we manage the open-source code that we bring into the company and use ourselves. But in addition to the how, it outlines why we do things the way we do, such as why we only use code under certain licenses or why we require contributor license agreements for all patches we receive."

Blog. The Google Open Source site also includes a tab for the Google Open Source blog, which has steadily remained a good avenue for finding new tools and open source news. The site houses blog posts from people all around Google, and includes collections of links that can take you to other useful blogs, such as the Google Developers Blog and the official Google Blog.

Community. Not only does Google run open outreach programs such as Google Summer of Code and Google Code-in, it also sponsors and contributes projects to organizations like the Apache Software Foundation. The Community section on the Google Open Source site is dedicated to outreach programs and is also a good place to look in on if you want to get involved with Google’s programs. Here are just a few of the community-centric affiliations Google has that you may not know about.

It’s no accident that Google is evolving and improving its home for all things open source. The company’s CEO Sundar Pichai came up at Google as chief of products, and helped drive the success of open source-centric tools ranging from Chrome to Android. Pichai knows that these tools have improved enormously as a result of community involvement. Now, more than ever, Google’s own success is tied to  the success of open source.

Are you interested in how organizations are bootstrapping their own open source programs internally? You can learn more in the Fundamentals of Professional Open Source Management training course from The Linux Foundation. Download a sample chapter now.

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