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OpenStack Foundation hails innovation benefits of open and inclusive software development

OpenStack CIO Mark Collier predicts the next five to 10 years will see more software development conducted in open, transparent and collaborative ways, as enterprises strive to speed up digital transformation efforts

The pace of software development and digital innovation within enterprises could be significantly sped up by adopting more transparent and collaborative working practices, claims OpenStack Foundation chief operating officer Mark Collier.

During the second day keynote at the OpenStack Summit in Berlin, he talked the audience through the design principles OpenStack project contributors abide by to help ensure all the work they do is created in an open, accessible and inclusive way.

“If every contributor has a voice, you will get a better result,” he said. “It allows others to come along later and be part of the community and open collaboration, to catch up and understand how decisions were made.”

That means contributions should not be limited to people working for specific companies, holding certain job roles, or those working in particular geographies and time zones, which could preclude them from attending in-person or virtual meet-ups.

“This is really hard, but it is important,” said Collier. “The tools you use for collaboration are not accessible in some countries. Learning that the hard way, you have to create tools that work for everybody, regardless of where they might be located.”

Open design is another important concept for all OpenStack projects, and means every new contribution to a project is subject to review and consideration before developers are given the green light to get to work on them.

“Open design means giving up control, which is uncomfortable, and a lot of people are uncomfortable with this,” he said. “Every change of the code is visible to the process. This is really about showing your work along the way. It is so fundamental to how things are done. A lot of open source isn’t done this way, but it is here.”

Roadblocks and barriers

It is an approach some may claim could introduce roadblocks and barriers to how quickly new product releases and bits of functionality can be made available to users, but – in the OSF’s experience – the converse is true.

“[People say] isn’t this going to slow everything to a halt? If you have to show your work along the way and your ideas before you even start coding, isn’t it going to slow things down? Maybe some of you have this fear,” he said.

“The fact is the open collaboration model, which OpenStack has been using for eight-plus years, delivered 70,000 changes just in the past year, and that makes it one of the top three most active open source projects in the world right now.”

And for that reason, Collier predicts, within the next decade, most software development will be conducted along similar “open” design lines.

“I’m very hopeful moving forward that a lot more development and a lot more open collaboration will happen in this model, because it is not very common today,” he said.

“People will overcome those fears [about open source], learn it is a better model, and believe in five to 10 years, this is how most software will be developed.”

Read more about the OpenStack Foundation

This prediction is based on how enterprise attitudes to using open source have softened in years gone by, as organisations have overcome their misgivings about using non-proprietary software offerings.

“If you look back, eight to ten years ago, open source made people very uncomfortable,” he said. “There were legal issues and intellectual property concerns. Now, that is not the case.”

“This model, which seems counter intuitive, is going to make you the fastest in the world – and it’s really simple: every contributor makes a difference. This is an environment that allows for that.

“We create this kind of playing field and an opportunity where everyone can be a part of it – and it really allows you to go faster,” said Collier.

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