The Stack Archive

Braving the new data frontier: How to create a strategic open source contribution

Thu 11 Aug 2016

Big data

Dinesh NirmalDinesh Nirmal, VP, big data, Spark & IBM analytics platform, explains why it’s crucial for new open source adopters and contributors to stick to a solid plan…

Open source has changed the way we process, stream and analyze data while helping tech giants and startups alike solve massive computing issues. However, integrating open source into a business strategy can be a challenge—both for organizations looking to contribute to the ecosystem and those hoping to reap the benefit from open source products and services. Only with the right strategies can enterprises execute a rewarding long-term open source plan.

Reaping the benefits of open source

The open source approach is one the fastest ways to spur innovation, as millions of minds—from enterprises to individuals—come together to collaborate on projects. By taking the open source approach, the obstacles organizations encounter are easier to overcome with the combined effort of multiple large organizations and experts all working as one.

The result is software and tools that offer cost efficiency, flexibility, freedom, security and accountability- things that propriety solutions don’t always provide. Moreover, open source remains on the cutting-edge of technology as it continues to evolve with new developments and solve problems faced by major players in several industries. And we can’t forget the long-term viability that comes with hundreds of reliable development shops.

Partnering with large vendors makes sense for a lot of open source projects, especially large-scale ones that require comprehensive support

At any stage in the process, vendors like IBM and Cloudera can be called on to deploy them while guiding organizations through the process and helping troubleshoot issues as they arise. Of course, enterprises should be mindful when choosing a vendor to select the provider that most aligns with their goals. This brings us back to the planning process, which is paramount in successfully using open source technology. Organizations should consider what specific problems they need to address, how reliable the products are and if they can successfully meet future demands—all of which are factors that depend on the vendor. The state of the open source community also factors into this decision. For instance, Spark has rapidly risen to the forefront of data processing as it continues to be bolstered by some of the biggest names in the industry. A comparable tool set with a poor supporting community could not tackle the same projects or be as amenable to change as one with a large force behind it.

Partnering with large vendors makes sense for a lot of open source projects, especially large-scale ones that require comprehensive support. Have the tools needed gone through integration level testing, certification for use, security vetting, etc.? These questions should always be top of mind because if a vendor can’t handle these specific requirements, the advantage offered by open source technology is diminished. In the case of smaller projects, individuals or teams can leverage free available technology to implement their own tailored approach.                                                                                                    

Giving back to the ecosystem

Beyond the obvious benefits of using open source technology, enterprises should consider contributing to open source projects to help solve problems faced across industries by individuals and massive organizations alike. To do so effectively, there are few things to keep in mind.

The success of open source projects depends on the continued investment of resources. Companies should pay it forward by contributing their own long-term tools and solutions. While planning for this, organizations should consider what problem they are aiming to solve, long-term implications and logistics like documentation and codes of conduct.

Organizations should familiarize themselves with the open source community and its guidelines. Enterprises cannot just open source code to the world and forget about it. Instead, they should adhere to the specific criteria contributions must meet along with the established set of rules for offerings and licenses, as outlined by The Open Source Initiative. Not complying could result in damaged reputations in the open source community or even legal consequences.

Active involvement in growing the open source ecosystem can boost a company’s reputation in the developer community

Follow good “code hygiene.” It’s quality over quantity when it comes to flexibility, scalability and ease of use—not to mention security. Meeting these standards requires a rigorous vetting process before a release and continued monitoring after.

Open source is all about community, so approach it with a collaborative mindset—the most successful open source leaders work with a strong network of peers and partners. For enterprises, experienced  open source partners can serve as mentors in an open source venture and can garner added trust in a contribution.

Finally, remember to be authentic in your contribution—don’t just do it for the hype , but solve an actual problem. For some, this can mean focusing on advancements in the open source community’s capabilities, such as promoting developer education by getting involved with an online education program like Coursera or Udacity. Active involvement in growing the open source ecosystem can boost a company’s reputation in the developer community.

No matter your opinion on open source, it is evident that the open source ecosystem will be a major force in how technology is applied in the enterprise. As demand continues to increase for more effective technology that can enable near real-time or real-time insights while supporting the requirements—like transactional data processing, systems of records, mission-critical applications—needed in today’s enterprise landscape, it will be crucial for new adopters and contributors to jump in with a solid plan. Is your organization ready?


Cloud feature IBM
Send us a correction about this article Send us a news tip