October 26, 2016

Enterprise Open Source Programs Flourish -- In Tech and Elsewhere

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Open source business
Here is a brief overview of open source programs at companies that may surprise you.

If you cycled the clock back about 15 years and surveyed the prevailing beliefs about open source technology at the time, you would find nowhere near the volume of welcome for it that we see today. As a classic example, The Register reported all the way back in 2001 that former CEO of Microsoft Steve Ballmer made the following famous statement in a Chicago Sun-Times interview: "Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches."

Fast-forward to today, though, and not only has Microsoft been actively contributing to and advancing Linux, but countless organizations have rolled out professional, in-house programs focused on advancing open source and encouraging its adoption. Some of the companies doing so may surprise you. Here is a brief overview of these programs at companies that are all household names.

Netflix Tests, Netflix Contributes. Lots of people tune in to watch Netflix on a regular basis, but how often do they visit the company’s Open Source Software Center? Netflix has contributed a slew of very useful tools and applications to the open source community, ranging from machine learning and orchestration applications to utilities that run on its platform. Engineers at the company announce when new tools are open sourced, and many of them have been tested and hardened at scale by Netflix for years.

Don’t Count Out Telecoms. In the telecom arena, Ericsson regularly contributes projects to the open source community and is a champion of several key open source initiatives. You can browse through the company’s open source hub here. The company is also one of the most active telecom-focused participants in the effort to advance open NFV and other open technologies that can eliminate historically proprietary components in telecom technology stacks. Ericsson works directly with The Linux Foundation on these efforts, and engineers and developers are encouraged to interface with the open source community.

Microsoft Radically Changes Its Tune. Once viewed as an enemy of open source, Microsoft has completely reversed course, partly because embracing open source paves the way to a brighter future for key Microsoft platforms such as Azure. CEO Satya Nadella, has said that nearly a third of the Azure cloud platform is Linux-based.

The company has also announced support for the container-friendly CoreOS Linux distribution, and Microsoft's Azure cloud supports CentOS, Oracle Linux, SUSE, Ubuntu, and other flavors of Linux. Microsoft has a growing partnership with Red Hat, and developers at the company are encouraged to participate actively in open initiatives, a number of which you can peruse here.

Walmart Speaks Open Source? As a matter of fact, Walmart does. The company's Walmart Labs division, located in San Bruno, right down the road from Silicon Valley, has released a slew of open source projects, and now there is a significant new one arriving. Electrode is a product of Walmart's migration to a React/Node.js platform. It gives developers templated code to build universal React apps that incorporate modules that developers can leverage to add functionality to Node apps. It's also a key part of how Walmart's site runs, and you can believe that that site runs at scale.

Walmart's site has 80 million monthly visitors, loads up to 10,000 requests per second, and includes 15 million items, adding more than one million new items each month -- nothing to shake a stick at. Read about some of the company’s open source contributions and programs here.

Mozilla’s Open Mojo. You can always count on Mozilla for an interesting spin on open source. Last year, Mozilla launched the Mozilla Open Source Support Program (MOSS) – an award program specifically focused on supporting open source and free software. As The VAR Guy notes: "The Mozilla Foundation has long injected money into the open source ecosystem through partnerships with other projects and grants. But it formalized that mission last year by launching MOSS, which originally focused on supporting open source projects that directly complement or help form the basis for Mozilla's own products."

Now, the company has announced that in the third quarter of this year, MOSS awarded over $300,000 to four projects which it either already supported, or which were in line with the Mozilla mission. The MOSS project is ongoing, and if you have a project that you think might qualify, you can take it to Mozilla.

Facebook and Google Play Leapfrog. Facebook and Google have such active internal open source programs, with developers and engineers regularly contributing their inventions to the community, that they frequently leapfrog each other. For example, just as Facebook announced that it open sourced its machine learning system designed for artificial intelligence computing at large scale, Google announced that it open sourced new AI tools. The Google Open Source Programs site is worth checking in on regularly, as is Facebook Open Source.  In 2016 alone, Facebook has already open sourced more than 50 projects, many proven and tested internally.

Many more organizations have active internal open source programs, and we will follow up with additional coverage of the most notable examples.

Get started with open source through The Linux Foundation's Introduction to Linux, Open Source Development, and GIT course.

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