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Nick Plante

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

OSS Goes Corporate (And It's A Good Thing!)

March 22, 2010

Corporate sponsorship of open source projects has come a long way in the last couple years, as more traditional software and service businesses recognize the value in supporting community-developed software. The most recent example would be last weeks' announcement by VMware that they were hiring Redis developer Salvatore Sanfilippo...

Redis, a high-performance key-value store, has become a major force in the NoSQL database movement. It's simple to implement, easy to work with, and very fast (we're personally using it in our latest project as a job queue and caching server). Originally open-sourced about a year ago, the project has grown very quickly both in terms of code as well as in popularity.

Due to the rapid growth of its userbase, Sanfilippo realized that he was in a position where people were dependent on Redis as a core piece of their production infrastructure, and he began seeking a business model that would allow him to continue hacking on it as a full-time endeavor. At the same time, he began being contacted by companies wishing to hire him full-time to work on the project.

Eventually Sanfilippo concluded that VMware was the best home for the project, based on the company's reputation and the technical product discussions they'd had; VMware wanted the project to remain free and open source, and wanted to support its development and exploration of (free) tools, use cases, and optimizations for itself and its users.

It's nice to see successful enterprise computing companies like VMware stepping up and sponsoring OSS projects, often through hiring key contributors and project stewards. Redis is a great project (we're using it in production ourselves and have nothing but praise for it thus far) and its rapid maturation speaks positively of its dev team. VMware benefits from the hire, of course -- as does Sanfilippo -- but the real winner here is the community.

Of course, VMware isn't the only technology company to embrace and sponsor leading OSS projects. Engine Yard, for example, employs many of the key JRuby developers, Facebook created and open-sourced the Cassandra and Tornado projects, and Twitter maintains a number of Ruby, Scala, and Java-based open-source projects. And those are just some of the most obvious examples.

OSS contribution pages like the ones maintained by Facebook and Twitter (linked above) are becoming more popular among companies who endeavor to contribute back to open source. It's a way to show off what they're giving back and how they're working to make the ecosystem better for everyone else, as well as demonstrate their culture of hiring the best and brightest. It's not entirely without marketing motivation, as there is obvious value in PR among the developer communities, but regardless of the motivation (wholly altruistic or otherwise), it's nice to see that Big Business recognizes the value in sponsoring community-developed software.

I think it's pretty safe to say that everyone benefits.Corporate sponsorship of open source projects has come a long way in the last couple years, as more traditional software and service businesses recognize the value in supporting community-developed software. The most recent example would be last weeks' announcement by VMware that they were hiring Redis developer Salvatore Sanfilippo...

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