Open Source in Companies, an Unhappy Union
A mood post about open source in business, a marriage that just doesn't take.
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I've just read recently that the French post office had just developed its own open-source RPA solution, called OpenRPA. It's the kind of news we don't read that often, unfortunately. So in this article, I'm going to describe the gains of this kind of approach, but also the efforts that companies should make to have a real, ambitious open-source policy.
What Are the Gains for Companies?
I remember when I was working around ESBs, we regularly had customers who asked us to develop a framework, a kind of overlay in order to provide additional services. We always came with a package called CommonServices, which contained very basic but very useful services to facilitate our work. But one day, I had to audit an instantiation of the same ESB that our big competitor was managing. And guess what I found! The same CommonServices package, including services I had developed myself! It was, of course, out of the question to put this package under open-source, and so it had been stolen, but we could have shared this package with our customers and our competitors to avoid recoding each of our services on our side. And of course, the framework that we were redeveloping for each customer would have been better to have been shared between not only our customers, but also to the community.
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But we can see that a number of nonphilanthropic companies contribute to open source, like Netflix, Google, or Facebook to name a few! The greatest benefit of open source for a company is to share its code with the community, which will bring support and free development.
What Blocks Exist in A Company?
I sincerely think that companies have not taken full advantage of open source. The vast majority prefer to use a publisher that will make them pay a prohibitively high price for support every year, and force them to change version every few years. Companies just haven't thought about doing open source.
From a company that would like to have a real open source strategy, it should have:
- A defined grid of eligibility for open source, based on security experts but also with the businesses;
- A defined legal policy, in order to know, among other things, which open-source licenses are appropriate for each situationl
- Defined support modalities using an open source Center of Excellence that takes over the maintenance of open source projects, a third-party company, a dedicated community.
I sincerely don't think it's much more complicated than that, but you need a will and a public awareness of the benefits of open source!
Open-Sourcing Code Is a BAD Default Policy
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