The idea of open source is not new. Ideas around the power of collectives to share, iterate, and effectively innovate together in near virtual space arose in the mid-eighteenth century, during the heyday of the age of enlightenment, with groups like the Lunar Society in the UK. The Lunar Society met roughly once a month in Birmingham, at the epicenter of the industrial revolution, as a collective of great minds, including both of Charles Darwin’s grandfathers.
They explored, shared, and broke barriers across disciplines together because they had the space in which to do it, and as a byproduct they gained great energy from discovering the possibilities of the world around them. For anyone who has attended an open source event, this description may sound familiar.
The Lunar Society of the 1790s is in many ways the very essence of open source community. Getting the very best ideas, working together, reacting and sharing together in real time. One major difference, though, is that the Lunar Society was very exclusive by nature, while today’s open source community is not. It is truly open. We live in a vastly more complex and expansive world than Birmingham in the 1790s; the power of the opportunities today is global, and mostly still forming.
With billions of devices running autonomously, computing, sensing, and predicting zettabytes of data, there are endless possibilities for what business ideas and technologies will thrive on the intelligent edge. Only an open source strategy can work in this environment: millions of people, ten of millions of ideas, maybe billions of combinations of code.
Open source for the intelligent edge
An effective intelligent edge will require a robust infrastructure that can handle low latency, high availability, and bandwidth demands. This infrastructure will include three key components: a cloud platform for running applications, analytics to monitor the health of the platform and services, and an orchestration layer to deploy and manage services across a distributed network.
There are five basic ways for companies to obtain this infrastructure: build it themselves from scratch, buy a proprietary solution from a vendor, build it starting with open source, buy a vendor-supported open source solution, or use infrastructure as a service (IaaS).
In a recent survey we administered across 500 respondents in France, Germany, Spain, the UK, and the U.S., a relatively small percentage selected “build your own from scratch,” and a few more selected “vendor proprietary.” The majority selected an option where open source plays a role, whether in IaaS, do-it-yourself (DIY), or vendor-supported options. IaaS was the #1 choice for all three elements (cloud platform, analytics, and orchestration). The rest were split between one of the other flavors of open source (DIY or vendor-supported).
It seems most people aren’t interested in building and/or managing their infrastructure themselves. 34% of business in the U.S. cite “lack of internal skills or knowledge” and “bandwidth constraints on people’s time” as the biggest barriers to adopting intelligent edge technologies, followed closely by “additional investments in associated technologies are unclear” and “lack of internal business support or request.” Open source options give these companies the benefits of the solution without having to shoulder the burden all on their own.
If building and supporting your own infrastructure is core to your business, then building from scratch might make sense — but even then, chances are you may still use open source components. With 180,000 open source projects available with 1,400 unique licenses, it just doesn’t make sense not to use open source to some degree.
Two key reasons why open source is so pervasive
The popularity of open source is not surprising. For one thing, you get to tap into a technological hive mind. There is some debate, and many variables, but estimates put the number of open source developers worldwide somewhere north of 20 million. Open source communities attract a wide variety of people who are interested in participating in a particular piece of technology, with communities and projects running the gamut in terms of size and scope, depending on the focus and maturity of the project.
The common thread is the community of people who are contributing and reviewing code in an effort to make the project better. Generally speaking, the more applicable the code is to a variety of use cases and needs, the more participation you might see in the community. So with open source projects you get to leverage some of the smartest people on the planet, and they don’t have to be on your company payroll.
The second reason for such widespread usage of open source — related to the first — is the fact that you don’t have to do it all yourself. It’s a pretty common scenario for a development organization to use open source code as a component of a larger solution. By leveraging that open source component they can save hundreds if not thousands of work hours by not having to develop or be the sole maintainer of that piece of code. It also allows the organization to focus on their value-add.
Not just a groovy codefest
Open source derives its success from community, and just like in any community, some boundaries and agreed-upon rules to play by are necessary in order to thrive. It’s one thing to download a piece of open source code for use in a personal project. It’s another to use open source code as a critical component of your company’s operations or as a product you provide to your customers. Just because you can get open source code “for free” doesn’t mean you won’t make an investment.
Open source projects need focus, attention, and nurturing. In order to get the full value from the community one must be an active member of that community — or pay someone to be an active member of the community on your behalf. Being active requires an investment of time and resources to give a voice and listen to other voices on a steering committee, discuss priority features to work on next, participate in marketing activities designed to encourage more participants, contribute quality code, review code from others, and more. Leaning in is strongly encouraged.
Open source technology offers a tremendous opportunity for collective creativity and innovation. When like-minded people gather together for a focused intellectual purpose, it’s energizing to the individual and can be hugely beneficial to the organization. Whether the open source code is part of an IaaS, a component of something you build, or part of a vendor-supported solution, it is a tremendous asset you can use to push your company’s value-add forward to better meet your customer’s needs.
Matt Jones is responsible for the global R&D team at Wind River. In this role, he leads the delivery of innovative products that are enabling and accelerating the digital transformation of our customers across market segments, ranging from aerospace to industrial, defense to medical, and networking to automotive. With nearly 20 years of experience in the technology industry, he oversees the development of the Wind River portfolio to expand the company’s reach in both new and existing markets.
He was previously at Virgin Hyperloop One, where as Senior Vice President he led the Software Engineering teams; tasked with providing all the software needed to manage, control, and operate an autonomous hyperloop system. This included embedded software and electronics, networking, cloud data and services, as well as customer-facing applications. Prior to Virgin Hyperloop One, he was chief product officer at moovel Group, Daimler’s mobility solutions company. Before moovel, he was director of future technology at Jaguar Land Rover. He also serves as Chairman at GENIVI Alliance, and was a member of the Board of Directors at The Linux Foundation.
He holds a Master of Engineering, Electronic and Electrical with Management, from the University of Birmingham.
Open source is source code that is made freely available for possible modification and redistribution. Products include permission to use the source code, design documents, or content of the product. It most commonly refers to the open-source model, in which open-source software or other products are released under an open-source license as part of the open-source-software movement. Use of the term originated with software, but has expanded beyond the software sector to cover other open content and forms of open collaboration.
Generally, open source refers to a computer program in which the source code is available to the general public for use for any (including commercial) purpose, or modification from its original design. Open-source code is meant to be a collaborative effort, where programmers improve upon the source code and share the changes within the community. Code is released under the terms of a software license. Depending on the license terms, others may then download, modify, and publish their version (fork) back to the community.
Open source promotes universal access via an open-source or free license to a product’s design or blueprint, and universal redistribution of that design or blueprint. Before the phrase open source became widely adopted, developers and producers used a variety of other terms. Open source gained hold in part due to the rise of the Internet. The open-source software movement arose to clarify copyright, licensing, domain, and consumer issues.
- Open-source license, a copyright license that makes the source code available with a product
- Open-source model, a decentralized software development model that encourages open collaboration
- Open-source software, software which permits the use and modification of its source code
- History of free and open-source software
- Open-source software advocacy
- Open-source software development
- Open-source-software movement
- Open-source video games
- Business models for open-source software
- Comparison of open-source and closed-source software
- Diversity in open-source software
- MapGuide Open Source, a web-based map-making platform to develop and deploy web mapping applications and geospatial web services (not to be confused with OpenStreetMap (OSM), a collaborative project to create a free editable map of the world).
Agriculture, economy, manufacturing and production
- Open-source appropriate technology (OSAT), is designed for environmental, ethical, cultural, social, political, economic, and community aspects
- Open-design movement, development of physical products, machines and systems via publicly shared design information, including free and open-source software and open-source hardware, among many others:
- Open Architecture Network, improving global living conditions through innovative sustainable design
- OpenCores, a community developing digital electronic open-source hardware
- Open Design Alliance, develops Teigha, a software development platform to create engineering applications including CAD software
- Open Hardware and Design Alliance (OHANDA), sharing open hardware and designs via free online services
- Open Source Ecology (OSE), a network of farmers, engineers, architects and supporters striving to manufacture the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS)
- OpenStructures (OSP), a modular construction model where everyone designs on the basis of one shared geometrical OS grid
- Open manufacturing or “Open Production” or “Design Global, Manufacture Local”, a new socioeconomic production model to openly and collaboratively produce and distribute physical objects
- Open-source architecture (OSArc), emerging procedures in imagination and formation of virtual and real spaces within an inclusive universal infrastructure
- Open-source cola, cola soft drinks made to open-sourced recipes
- Open-source hardware, or open hardware, computer hardware, such as microprocessors, that is designed in the same fashion as open source software
- Open-source product development (OSPD), collaborative product and process openness of open-source hardware for any interested participants
- Open-source robotics, physical artifacts of the subject are offered by the open design movement
- Open Source Seed Initiative, open source varieties of crop seeds, as an alternative to patent-protected seeds sold by large agriculture companies.