How to Make Open Source Work for You

How to Make Open Source Work for You

By: Dr. Angel Diaz, IBM Vice President Cloud Architecture and Technology

Business today is all about adapting, pivoting and expanding quickly. With market conditions changing ever so rapidly, open source has become the key to helping companies modify their solutions while keeping their IT expenditures and development time to a minimum.

Today, we're starting to see a new crop of developers who grew up using open source methodologies to develop open source components. As these developers make their way into enterprise IT departments, they're bringing their familiarity with and desire for open source with them.

Accordingly, we've been seeing tremendous amounts of innovation come from open source projects. The focus of many open source projects is on helping to solve the complex technology challenges that most businesses face today such as how to work with big data and how to build the best cloud applications.

So how can and should enterprises go about making open source work for them in the best way possible? Here are some factors to take note of.

Finding quality open source components and knowing how to work with them

An enterprise requires more than just access to open source software components in order to field a successful open source development program. Components must be properly vetted, not just to make sure that they're well-written and do what they claim to do, but also to make sure that they are secure.
However, it's also not just about the tools, but also about the process. It starts by building an awareness of the value of open source and how to work with it.

Building a community together

Let's face it, there's a lot of garbage out there in the open source world. Businesses can't afford to play with trash. They need assurance that the components they're downloading and using to build critical business processes are secure and bug free. They need to know that their developers aren't spinning their wheels cleaning up someone else's bad code. They need reusable components that they actually want to use.

This is where the strength and vitality of the community become important. Strong communities flourish with the right guidance and create better software. Large established companies must put their strength behind building vibrant open source communities by contributing services, processes, and code.

A thriving community provides an avenue for open source collaboration and stimulates new development efforts focused on new technologies. This presents customers, partners and industry participants with the opportunity to not only download open source components, but ultimately, also participate in the process of developing it. Successful open source projects are more than just code and include rich content, code samples, videos, developer stories, blogs, wikis, and more. Enterprises can drive this effort as they successfully engage in open source development and become part of the community-driven culture of open source.

Implementing security policies and performing regular audits

Security is naturally a concern for open source developers, especially as open source components are making it into mission-critical and security-sensitive environments around the world. Open source software has the potential to be extremely secure because the source code is available to a large global community of developers who are constantly finding bugs and other vulnerabilities in the code and fixing them.

This is made possible when security policies that outline the best practices for implementing new components and maintaining the integrity of the open source infrastructure are put in place. Regular audits also need to occur to verify that the most secure versions of components are being used.

Clear documentation

Clear documentation is also an essential part of any enterprise open source initiative. Enterprises need to establish and enforce coding standards in order to get the most out of open source without duplicating effort and wasting time.

Mindset change

Last but not least, the biggest change that may be required in an organization is one of mindset.

Tap into your developers' creativity to turn them into contributors. Developers don't want to mechanically code to a tight specification, they want to solve problems creatively. A creative developer is a happy developer. Get the most out of your open source initiative by giving your developers the right tools and an atmosphere of creativity and problem-solving and see what they can do.

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