Open source and collaborative software development has evolved in recent years to become an essential part of technology industry innovation, said Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin in his opening keynote at Collaboration Summit today.
While the world’s largest tech companies are spending billions of dollars a year on internal research and development (R&D) in order to innovate, many are also investing in what Zemlin calls external R&D through open source collaboration. These companies have reported lower development costs and shorter time to market for their products and services, he said citing data from the Linux Foundation’s Collaborative Development Trends Report released today.
“This form of development is so powerful it is ushering in a new era of how the tech industry in particular collaborates,” Zemlin said, “not just around Linux but around every existing, or in particular, new layer of the technology stack.”
The AllSeen Alliance is building the AllJoyn software platform for the Internet of Things that enables peer-to-peer communication between all kinds of devices, from mobile phones and tablets, to home appliances, cars and sensors. To do this, they must bridge communications not only between different brands, but between industry verticals, said Liat Ben-Zur, senior director of product management, at Qualcomm and chairperson of AllSeen Alliance, in her morning keynote.
“The vision we have is huge. To achieve the goals I’ve laid out of what the Internet of Everything can and should be, Qualcomm can’t do this alone,” Ben-Zur said. “We want the companies that are experts in all of those fields to help define that roadmap… This is something we really need to have as a collaborative project.”
In the networking industry, cloud computing and virtualization have brought massive changes to the datacenter that companies must now rapidly adjust to. But collaboration through standards bodies has been slow and can become political, said Chris Wright, director of software-defined networking at Red Hat and an OpenDaylight board member, in his morning keynote. OpenDaylight is redefining the networking industry through collaborative development, he said, by creating a common open source code base on which companies can then compete with their own differentiated products and services.
“It’s open source projects that are driving the technology behind all of this innovation,” Wright said.
Changing model of collaboration
Five years ago companies collaborated mostly by setting standards. They’d work together to write specifications that provided a level of interoperability and it was up to each company to implement it. Open source development has usurped that and companies now exchange code instead of, or in addition to, standards, Zemlin said.
This open source collaboration goes beyond paying software developers to work on open source projects and creates a new level of open source “professionalization,” he said. Leading edge companies have created positions and departments that manage the process of external collaboration itself.
Companies such as Intel, Samsung and Google have dedicated positions and teams already in place to manage the standards and practices around using and contributing to open source projects and are on the cutting edge of this form of external research and development. Their external R&D managers help decide which aspects of the technology to release as open source and what to keep for internal use. They also create a seamless process for contributing code as well as integrating open source code into products and services.
The rise of open source and collaboration has also led to the creation in recent years of numerous open source foundations, such as the AllSeen Alliance and the OpenDaylight project (both Linux Foundation collaborative projects) and many others, to act as a neutral place for companies to invest in open source technologies and do collaborative development at an industrial scale.