Why Istio Matters to Google

You may have notices the brouhaha in response to Google’s announcement to hand over trademark management of its popular Istio, Angular, and Gerrit open source projects to the newly created Open Usage Commons (OUC) non-profit. While I gave Google the benefit of the doubt, the vast majority of commentary assumed that Google only had its own interests at heart and tried to add the appearance of openness to its projects without actually delivering. Google dominates the OUC and therefore any decisions.

Here, I want to focus on why people, most notably cloud providers, care. I will ignore sensibilities (broken promises or not) and focus on the business perspective. As I wrote before, of the three projects given to the OUC, the heat is on Istio, a (micro-)services mesh software. Angular and Gerrit may be important projects in general, but don’t matter much to Google’s revenue. So, what is it about Istio?

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Interpreting the Purpose of the Open Usage Commons Foundation

Yesterday, the Open Usage Commons (OUC) foundation announced itself. It is a non-profit which wants to ensure free and fair trademark use of the open source projects under its guidance. My Twitter feed was quick to denounce the OUC as a vanity foundation. It certainly is not. A vanity foundation serves to aggrandize its creators, and a name like “The Great Company Open Source Foundation” would then be apt. This is not the case here. Rather the OUC makes specific statements about trademark enforcement, so it has a purpose that is not vanity. Just what is that purpose, and why did existing foundations not fit the bill?

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Three Reasons Why Companies Are Creating Their Own Open Source Consortium

Most open source these days, certainly the most widely used open source, is developed by companies. Open source, by definition, is competitively non-differentiating, so companies can join forces in its development. To so do peacefully, however, they need good governance that preempts conflicts among the participating companies. Such governance is usually provided under the auspices of an open source foundation, of which the big three are the Apache Software Foundation, the Eclipse Foundation, and the Linux Foundation. Despite these existing foundations, many companies interested in developing a new open source software keep opting to create their own consortium.

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Ten Years of Student Startups

A main reason why I became a professor is to create and guide student startups, in general, and from my research projects in particular. It has been a bumpy ride, to say the least, but I guess, every learning curve is. Data points (startups) are still not plenty, but I can nevertheless discern some learnings. Without further ado, the usual bullet list of insights:

Learning is by person. Large companies can talk about organizational memory and capabilities building all they want, in a startup, knowledge walks in the door (and out) by person. A new person basically starts over and makes all the same mistakes the person they replace also made… two years later. So, avoid losing good people.

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The Innovations of Open Source Article Republished in IEEE Computing Edge’s April 2020 Issue

IEEE’s Computing Edge magazine is a practitioner-oriented publication that republishes particularly popular content from other IEEE publications. In the April 2020 issue, they republished last year’s The Innovations of Open Source article that I wrote to open the Computer magazine’s Open Source Expanded bimonthly column.

Best of all, it is free! (Original version, local copy.)

I didn’t know about the republication until someone pointed me to it. Check it out, if you missed the article the first time around.

Single-Vendor Open Source Firms (Dirk Riehle, IEEE Computer Column)

I’m happy to report that the seventh article in the Open Source Expanded column of IEEE Computer has been published.

TitleSingle-Vendor Open Source Firms
KeywordsOpen source, single-vendor open source, commercial open source
AuthorsDirk Riehle, Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-N├╝rnberg
PublicationComputer vol. 53, no. 4 (April 2020), pp. 68-72.

Abstract: This article present a particular business model for commercial open source firms, called the single-vendor open source model. This model has long dominated venture capital funding for open source software firms, contributing to the long-term sustainability of open source. As such, it is of high economic relevance. It is also an excellent example to show how open source licensing and related strategies really are just tools in the design of a business model and not philosophies.

As always, the article is freely available (local copy or HTML page).

Also, check out the full list of articles.

Managing Episodic Volunteers in Free/Libre/Open Source Software Communities (Article)

Abstract: We draw on the concept of episodic volunteering (EV) from the general volunteering literature to identify practices for managing EV in free/libre/open source software (FLOSS) communities. Infrequent but ongoing participation is widespread, but the practices that community managers are using to manage EV, and their concerns about EV, have not been previously documented. We conducted a policy Delphi study involving 24 FLOSS community managers from 22 different communities. Our panel identified 16 concerns related to managing EV in FLOSS, which we ranked by prevalence. We also describe 65 practices for managing EV in FLOSS. Almost three-quarters of these practices are used by at least three community managers. We report these practices using a systematic presentation that includes context, relationships between practices, and concerns that they address. These findings provide a coherent framework that can help FLOSS community managers to better manage episodic contributors.

Keywords: Best practices, community management, episodic volunteering, free software, open source software

Reference: Barcomb, A., Stol, KJ, Fitzgerald, B., & Riehle, D. (2020). Managing Episodic Volunteers in Free/Libre/Open Source Software Communities. IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering. To appear.

The paper can be downloaded as a PDF file.

Please Help Keep our Language Precise: Single-Vendor Open Source is Neo-Proprietary Source, not Closed Source

When the Open Source Initiative defined open source, it focused only on the license, and ignored the process. Smart entrepreneurs quickly discovered that they could provide to the world their product as open source code and benefit from it, while strictly controllling the process to keep competition at bay. This is called single-vendor open source.

Single-vendor open source is not closed source, not even “the new” closed source. The following 2×2 matrix illustrates the distinction between license and process:

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