Why enterprises are flocking to open source
Freedom, openness, and community are the bedrock values that open source is built on. In this article, Abby Kearns, Executive Director of Cloud Foundry Foundation explains why these things made open source the successful foundation for modern tech enterprises.
As the leader of an open source foundation, I have a unique perspective on the way open source technologies are catalyzing the digital transformation of enterprises around the world. More than half of the Fortune 100 is using Cloud Foundry. If you’re wondering why, there are two main reasons: one is the allure of open source, and the other is the strength of the platform itself.
Open and free
Open source is based on freedom. That freedom includes access to the source code, freedom to collaborate and, ultimately, the freedom to innovate. In open source, no one person or company owns a project. Open source is a philosophy and a movement, and what makes open source thrive is the community that grows up around it.
All participants in an open source ecosystem have the opportunity to shape and improve the software. Users can identify features they need and contribute code upstream. Everyone has a chance to make a difference.
An open source project has the best chance of growing into a successful ecosystem if the entire community around it takes an active role. This includes everyone from the people committing code and writing documentation to the software and platform vendors, integrators and users.
Community is not based on a physical location. It’s defined by shared attitudes, interests and goals. An open source project spans geography, political affiliations and experience. With no arbitrary boundaries of country or language, people with diverse perspectives from all backgrounds can participate.
Diversity is really what makes a healthy open source community thrive. Diversity makes us stronger as we invite people with different backgrounds and experience to solve problems collaboratively.
That’s not always easy. People have egos and sometimes disagree. That’s why we have a code of conduct in our community that asks people to be respectful. Our core value is kindness. We encourage community members to be kind when interacting with each other—to show respect—to listen—to be inclusive. We strive to make everyone in the community feel welcome, regardless of their background, or how much they contribute.
At Cloud Foundry, we encourage inclusion. We invite speakers from all aspects of our community to present at our bi-annual conferences so that diverse perspectives are shared. Diversity is key to moving the industry forward; it helps us foster a sustainable and open community, and enables innovation to flourish. Collaborative R&D is where open source really drives real value.
Open source fosters collaboration within a project, but also among other open source projects. For example, in the Cloud Foundry community, we have a great relationship with OpenStack, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), the Eclipse Foundation and many others. The Open Service Broker API project  we announced last year was a way to take the Cloud Foundry Service Broker API, an industry-leading technology, and make it available across other platforms and communities. The collective work of multiple communities, in this case, benefits the greater good of all of them.
Another example is Kubo, a project under the Cloud Foundry umbrella. Developed by engineers from Google and Pivotal, Kubo brings Cloud Foundry’s multi-cloud strengths, including automated release engineering, deployment and lifecycle management, to Kubernetes.
Competition or neutral playing field?
Cloud Foundry is attractive to enterprises because it’s an established application platform that they can use to quickly boost their development efforts. Because the platform lets you develop applications in your language of choice, and run them on your cloud of choice, it frees your developers to focus on applications unique to their businesses.
There are two sides to this coin. Using a platform like Cloud Foundry helps enterprises be competitive as they’re undergoing digital transformation. By taking advantage of a solid, mature, and evolving platform, they can be innovative faster.
But what about the other side of the coin? Isn’t it a conundrum to find competitors joining the community, using the same software, even contributing code back to improve the platform?
In a word: no. When competing companies band together to collaborate on an open source project, everyone benefits. A rising tide lifts all boats.
Within the Cloud Foundry ecosystem itself, the Cloud Foundry Foundation creates neutral territory where companies can work together as allies to write the future of open source.
The Foundation is a unique Linux Foundation project, one of just a handful of foundations unto itself. The foundation was established in 2013 as the home to govern the established technology developed first at VMWare, starting in 2010. In 2013, Cloud Foundry was transferred to Pivotal and then open sourced in 2015. The Foundation was established as a 501(c)(6), so that the foundation holds all the intellectual property for Cloud Foundry, and it can never be transferred back to a for-profit company.
This status gives members the confidence to participate in a non-competitive atmosphere, where the Cloud Foundry Foundation serves as the gatekeeper for the open source project. Our job, as a foundation, is to inspire and empower members of the community to work together to improve the platform. By harnessing the collective power of dozens of companies, many of which are users of the technology, the Foundation ensures the proliferation of an open source, multi-cloud application platform that is beneficial to everyone.
This article is part of last year’s “All eyes on Open Source” JAX Magazine issue:
Open source skills are a boost for career prospects — if you don’t believe it, it’s time to bring out the big guns.
We invited the Eclipse Foundation, The Apache Software Foundation, Cloud Foundry, Red Hat, Hyperledger and more to show you why open source is important. You’ll surely learn a lot from their experiences!