"The benefits of this workaround are extraordinary and underappreciated," Katz continued. But open source offers something just as extraordinary and even more underappreciated, something that edX community lead John Mark Walker recently pointed out on Twitter.
Namely, what open source does to collaboration among engineers inside the same company.
Getting stuff done
According to Walker, "one of the little known secrets is that [open source] allows eng[ineering] teams in the same company to collab[orate] without management getting in the way." Though this may seem counterintuitive at first—why would developers wearing the same employer's badge need help working together?—anyone who has worked within a larger company will immediately nod their heads in agreement. In large companies, siloed engineering is the norm, not the exception, and it results in teams that often find it easier to work with engineers outside their firewall than with those within the company.
It's ridiculous, but it's true.
SEE: Linux distribution comparison chart (Tech Pro Research)
Though true, this fact isn't necessarily obvious to engineers. Not for those that have spent years working inside large, bureaucratic organizations, anyway. At the macro level, open source has gone from copycat to innovator, driving many of the trends in cloud computing, big data, machine learning, and more.
At the micro level, however, developers are at varying degrees of familiarity with open source. To the extent that engineers in large, staid organizations know about open source, often it's simply as a consumer of great code, rather than as contributors to it. Yet this is changing.
Cloud + open source = developer happiness
It's changing because the cost of engineering in the old ways is simply too high. As enterprises embrace software as a way to drive their businesses, developers are tasked with getting more done, faster. Open source offers a way to accelerate software innovation, even as cloud takes care of the hardware, both without having to get the legal or purchasing teams involved.
SEE: How to become a developer: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)
But, again, one of the most important things that open source can do for an organization has nothing to do with access to Linux or TensorFlow, and everything to do with helping provide a framework for developers within the same organization to work together. Through open source processes and the magic of GitHub, engineers can collaborate without waiting on vice president approval or yet another meeting to address integrations, roadmaps, etc.
So, yes, be thankful for what open source has done for the industry. But perhaps you should be even more grateful for what it can do for your own company.
- 20 quick tips to make Linux networking easier (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
- GitHub: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)
- Digital transformation: A CXO's guide (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)
- Microsoft buys GitHub for $7.5 billion (ZDNet)
- How to build a successful career as a DevOps engineer (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
Matt is currently head of the developer ecosystem at Adobe. The views expressed are his own, not those of his employer.
Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.