Open Source Collaboration Is A Top-Down Decision

Sean Michael Kerner

Collaboration might seem to come naturally to open source developers, but the Linux Foundation tell Sean Michael Kerner that it’s also a business decision

The open-source Linux ecosystem is one of the most successful examples of collaborative software development. In a report released at the Linux Collaboration Summit, the Linux Foundation tried to quantify how organisations today are embracing the collaborative development model.

The study surveyed 700 business managers and software developers, 91 percent of whom said that collaborative software development is important to their businesses. The study also found that 77 percent of business managers were able to achieve a faster time to market by using collaborative software development methods.

Linux penguinsWorking together

“The study defined collaborative development as software development that involves multiple individuals and companies, in many cases competing in the same industry, and in which the code base is open source and a shared investment,” Amanda McPherson, vice president of marketing and developer programs at the Linux Foundation, told eWEEK.

Collaborative software development isn’t unique to the open-source model, though the Linux Foundation study is focused on open-source development. McPherson said the Linux Foundation understands that there are different interpretations of what constitutes open and collaborative development, but the Linux Foundation’s efforts and study are focused on development that is done transparently with code that is open-source licensed.

The study found that investment in collaborative development is likely to remain part of normal business operations for most organisations. Forty-four percent of survey respondents said their organisations will increase collaborative development efforts over the next six months, while 42 percent expect to sustain current investments. McPherson noted that the Linux Foundation did not ask specifically where organisations are making their collaborative development investments.

“Based on our experiences working with companies investing in collaborative development, the investments are largely in developers to work on the project with their peers across companies,” McPherson said. “I would expect more investments here.”

Collaborative software development isn’t without its fair share of challenges too. The survey asked business managers about challenges associated with collaborative development, and the top three they cited were politics (56 percent), legal issues (55 percent) and understanding governance practices (42 percent). None of these challenges was surprising to the Linux Foundation, McPherson said; in fact, it is those challenges that are part of the Linux Foundation’s own success.

“We think these challenges are among the reasons companies often seek organisations like ours to support them in collaborative development,” she said.

In addition to helping to lead the Linux community, the Linux Foundation has its own collaborative projects effort that aims to help other open-source projects.

What stands out in the study is that the decision to build software collaboratively is being driven by both developers and business managers, McPherson said.

“We’ve long known that developers often prefer open-source tools and software, but the results of this survey really show how the decision to both use open-source software and build new software across companies is one driven from the top,” she said. “It makes development sense, and it makes business sense.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist

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Originally published on eWeek.