Five reasons why organizations should invest in open source

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When it comes to engaging in open source, Comcast Open Source Program Manager Shilla Saebi put it simply: “If we’re not participating, we’re going to be left behind.”

At GitHub, we’ve seen more and more enterprises invest in open source to accelerate innovation at scale—without any signs of slowing down. A recent Red Hat report has also found that the majority of enterprises increased their use of open source within the past 12 months, and over half plan to do so over the next year.

Here are the top five reasons that leading enterprise organizations are investing in open source:

1. Accelerated development

No single organization can keep up with the pace of innovation in the open source community. Open source maintainers and contributors collaborate across borders, time zones, and languages, all with the same shared passion for their work. By engaging in open source, organizations can instantly make the world’s software community part of their team—tapping into developer resources greater than any single organization.

“There is a huge open source community of code and developers to work with and draw inspiration from,” said Chris Traganos, Developer Advocate at Stripe. He told us: “To build better developer tools, we need a direct line to it.” While Stripe’s IP is in a private data center, many of its public projects today exist openly on GitHub, where anyone can suggest changes and use the code.

2. More secure code

It can seem counterintuitive: the more people involved, the safer your code. Having more eyes on your code means more opportunities for great ideas. But it also means more chances to catch potential bugs before they’re released, something Saebi experienced personally.

“At Comcast we have a team watching security alerts to keep our code safe and catch any vulnerabilities before they might affect our projects or customers,” Saebi said. “As one of the members of the team watching alerts, I really value the extra layer of protection.” With tools like maintainer security advisories and security vulnerability alerts, external contributors and internal teams can privately report potential security vulnerabilities in enterprise open source projects.

3. Improved recruiting and retention

Both Comcast and Stripe made one thing clear to us: having an open source presence attracts and retains top talent. Stripe hires and finds new recruits through the open source community, while Comcast has many developers dedicated to working on open source projects like Apache Traffic Control, Kuberhealthy, and Trickster. When we spoke to Zendesk, we learned that engineers are also encouraged to maintain a single GitHub profile throughout their career to recognize their internal and open source contributions.

Developers and open source go hand-in-hand. Publicly contributing to open source is a concrete way of showing your organization is committed to innovation and to working with the most innovative code and communities to get there. Open source leaders attract top talent and improve retention by offering their developers the freedom (and recognition) to pursue the projects they love.

4. Better developer tools 

Over 99 percent of newly built applications contain open source code. Most organizations are already using open source tools or have open source in their codebase—without realizing or formally contributing to open source projects.

But there’s an important difference between passively and actively consuming open source. By actively engaging in open source, organizations can have a say in the future of the open source projects that power their infrastructure and contribute tools that make software development better for all teams.

Stripe’s Sorbet project took a similar approach. Sorbet was originally built to solve an internal challenge: bringing static typing to Ruby. Now, hundreds of supporters, developers, and organizations contribute to and build better with Sorbet around the world.

5. Higher productivity at lower cost 

Open source forms the building blocks of today’s software. Developers can find the pre-written code they need with a simple search, often for free. Instead of always creating new code, engaging in open source allows organizations to prioritize work on their IP and product-differentiating features—equalling shorter time to market and reduced costs. Get comfortable asking whether your code has to be built by your team. If not, open source it.

Open source has changed the way we build software. It’s everywhere—powering the frameworks we use to communicate, collaborate, and innovate. Now, it’s bringing enterprises to a new crossroads: lead or be left behind. Which will your organization choose?


This post originally appeared on LinkedIn on September 26, 2019. Stay tuned for more insights about why organizations should commit to innersource in the next post.