Investing in open source one way or another has never been more important — but there are key considerations, especially if a customer relies on “closed” software, suggests SentryOne chief technology officer John Welch.
SentryOne’s Welch, in a company blog, explains that open source has become a “fact of life” for most organisations. They’re using it in some shape or form, even if they do not directly publish open-source derived applications themselves. It follows, therefore, that every organisation “can and should” support open-source projects.
“I don’t think every company needs to release all their code as open source. It’s not practical for many companies and, realistically, it doesn’t actually help the open-source projects that you benefit from,” Welch says.
The first, most obvious way is to support open-source projects financially. It helps offset the costs associated with running a project and demonstrates appreciation. The project operators can then invest that money themselves.
Secondly, end users can contribute back to the project — perhaps by supplying a workaround for a slightly different scenario, or offering feedback on functions and features that customers might find useful.
“Rather than simply building the necessary code and moving on, consider whether it could be submitted back to the open-source project, thus improving what’s there for everyone,” he says.
“Recognise that the maintainers are often doing the work on their own time. It’s not uncommon for maintainers to receive communications such as: ‘Thing X is a bug. Please fix it.’ Then, a day or two later, to receive a follow-up message: ‘Thing X is still broken! Why haven’t you fixed it yet?’.”
When even the web browser that every employee uses is likely open-source derived, it makes sense to support these developments. Although technically “free to use” at the end point, open source software is not resource-free to develop, Welch points out.
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