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Author's profile photo Claus Riegen

Reflections on SAP Open Source Summit 2012 – episode #3

In the first two episodes of this blog post series about the SAP Open Source Summit 2012, I shared my overall impressions and key parts of my own presentation on the corporate open source strategy, respectively. Now I want to touch upon insights from the keynotes that our guest speakers delivered.

Mike Milinkovich, Executive Director, Eclipse Foundation, presented on Foundations 2.0. He offered his slides to be posted on SCN, see here. As already mentioned in my first blog post in this series, Mike stressed the point that it is commonly unknown that SAP is a strong contributor to the Eclipse Foundation. The Eclipse ecosystem is still growing – today, there are more than 2 mio downloads per month. Also, Eclipse is known for its predictabie, yearly releases and the level of corporate engagement, which was one of the differentiators when the foundation was created more than 10 years ago.

Recognizing a few trends in the software industry such as “software is everywhere” and “open source is really really mainstream”, he characterized the next generation of open source foundations, which is also where Eclipse is going:

  1. Technology-agnostic Eclipse is already much more than an IDE only and applies to practically all programming languages (including ABAP …). The foundation will continue to serve additional purposes and welcome other technologies that can make use of the development and IP management principles that it is known for.
  2. Git-based The adoption of Git as a version control and source code management system for distributed development is still growing and Eclipse has decided to migrate to a Git-based common build infrastructure, which will presumably simplify the daily life of Eclipse committers.
  3. Long-term support Particularly in enterprise environments, the requirement of long-term support (or sometimes long long-term support …) is obvious and the establishment of the Long Term Support Industry Working Group supports the development of respective development and support models.
  4. User-led More and more end-user organizations from different industries observe the opportunities (or sometimes the need) to increase the level of collaboration, including the joint work on software projects. Eclipse already has a number of industry working groups such as Polarsys for embedded systems or LocationTech for location-aware software and Mike believes that the trend of more end-use involvement will continue.

Andrew Aitken is SVP, Olliance Group, a Black Duck company and an open source consulting firm. He has consulted numerous software companies on how to embed open source development and licensing approaches in their corporate strategy. From his point of view, open source is already in its fourth generation. In the beginning, it was a rather extreme movement with rather extreme characters like Richard Stallman and Bruce Perens. Then, open source emerged and became a means for commercial success: Red Hat, MySQL and SpringSource are examples of commercially quite successful companies with an open source based business model. Thirdly, the more traditional vendors complement their business model with open source approaches – today, there is hardly any software vendor that does not have a defined approach towards open source. And the fourth generation is – in line with what Mike observes – the involvement of end-users. NYSE, Airbus, BMW and NASA, for example, are all quite actively engaged in open source projects that are specific to their industry vertical.

Dirk Riehle, Professor for Open Source Software at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, presented on one of his favorite topics: Inner Source. Inner Source is what he calls “open source best practices applied to firm-internal software development.” He and his team have interviewed and worked with a number of corporations, both software vendors and end-user organizations to see if the expected benefits of inner source (better code reuse, more knowledge sharing, improved resource allocation and higher job satisfaction) actually apply. While he in general confirms this, he distinguishes between two forms of inner source – volunteer (i.e., self-managed) and managed. Managed inner source requires a “defined and actively managed governance process.” The right choice of model depends on the types of challenges an organization or a project is facing, which varies between developer skills, developer mindset and management mindset. More research from Dirk can be found on his blog.

Last but not least, Jono Bacon presented on Communities and what makes them strong and vibrant. For him, sense of belonging and sense of purpose are the most important characteristics the individual community members should feel to make the community a coherent one. Communities are obviously not restricted to software development (and of course not to open source software), but many principles of successful communities can also be seen in software-related communities. For example, the importance of providing kudos to active members, particularly new ones that start contributing, can not be overestimated. A simple “thank you” for committing a patch that resolves an annoying bug is key to keep the contributor’s sense of belonging and the overall community more active. Jono has written a well-known book “The Art of Community” published at O’Reilly and continues the dialogue on the Art Of Community Online.

Next time, I’ll finish this series and write about what SAP is – presumably – going to do next in the context of open source software.

In terms of the SAP Open Source Summit 2012 blog series, here is the overview again:

  1. Overall Impressions
  2. What we think – SAP Open Source Strategy
  3. Insights from keynotes (this post)
  4. What we do next

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