Internal adoptions of open source practices by companies

A case study by Vijay Gurbani and his colleagues shows how companies can benefit from applying open source practices internally. Gurbani and his colleagues developed an internet telephony server at Lucent using an open source approach. Through multiple stages, the initial research project evolved into the backbone of multiple commercial products, all based on the same server software. Gurbani provided the server software as a shared internal asset, including the source code. Over time, several product groups contributed to the project, without any top-down companywide project planning. The project followed the Linux development model of “benevolent dictator” with “trusted lieutenants.” The result was high-quality, broadly used software that met user expectations and could be easily customized to different needs.

The above citation is from an interesting article from Dirk Riehle and SAP colleagues, on: Open Collaboration within Corporations Using Software Forges:

Software forges are tool platforms that originated in the open source community. Many corporations are improving and extending their software development practices by adopting forges internally.


“Over the past 10 years, open source software has become an important cornerstone of the software industry. Commercial users have adopted it in standalone applications, and software vendors are embedding it in products. Surprisingly then, from a commercial perspective, open source software is developed differently from how corporations typically develop software. Research into how open source works has been growing steadily [1]. One driver of such research is the desire to understand how commercial software development could benefit from open source best practices. Do some of these practices also work within corporations? If so, what are they, and how can we transfer them?

This article describes our experiences using open source software development practices at SAP. SAP is a major software developer and leader in business applications. We’ve found that open source practices can complement traditional top-down software development with bottom-up collective intelligence. Software forges offer a mechanism for advancing the adoption of open source best practices within corporations. We illustrate our experiences using SAP’s own internal software forge, called SAP Forge, and compare our experiences with those from other large software companies.”

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