It’s been a little more than a year since Venil Noronha and Alex Courouble joined the VMware OSTC (Open Source Technology Center) as open source engineers. As it turns out, a ton of learning, growth and development can happen in just the span of a year, particularly in the fast-paced world of open source software development.
We sat down with both Venil and Alex and asked them about their experience with VMware OSTC to date, their thoughts on open source program offices (OSPOs) and how they’ve come into their own as thriving members and contributors within the open source community.
Looking back to your initial expectations before joining VMware’s OSTC, how have these been met or exceeded in your mind?
Venil Noronha: Definitely exceeded. I’ve been able to contribute to open source in ways I never imagined. I’ve been able to get actively involved in both Envoy and Istio communities, and I’ve also had several opportunities to contribute both internally and externally to VMware via collaborations, thought leadership in the form of presenting, publishing technical articles, etc.
Alex Courouble: I knew I was very fortunate to join the OSTC as a new grad. As I was joining the team, I was excited about the possibility of learning from both a major software company like VMware and also from all the open source communities that we engage with. A year later, I realize that in addition to learning at a fast pace from multiple communities, we are given an incredible amount of freedom in the different projects we undertake, which is something I was not expecting at all.
What’s the biggest misconception you had about open source?
VN: Before joining VMware, I got involved in open source only because of the source code aspect of it. However, I’ve now come to realize that it’s not just about the source and, in fact, it’s more about the people and the community—and that is what makes open source happen.
AC: A misconception I had coming in was that most of the work revolves around open source license compliance. Although we do have co-workers working on that, I also realized that we engage with open source for multiple different reasons. One of these reasons is to acquire domain knowledge about specific areas of focus and share that knowledge with other VMware teams.
What would you classify as your greatest accomplishment at the VMware OSTC thus far?
VN: In the past year, I’ve been speaking about service mesh at several internal and external conferences. Speaking at conferences is something that I had never attempted prior to joining the OSTC at VMware, and that’s something I’m very proud of today.
AC: My first big accomplishment at the OSTC was a contribution tracker that keeps track of our engagement in open source communities. Another big accomplishment I am working on at the moment is a Command Line Interface tool for the open source project I work on: EdgeX Foundry. I am the original author of the project and although the CLI is still under development, we are already receiving contributions from another company.
What do you see as the biggest benefit to a corporate OSPO like VMware’s?
VN: By systematically approaching open source via an OSPO like VMware’s, developers get great support to carry out their contributions. This not only leads to better growth of the open source project itself, but we also gain early insights into how and where the industry is moving. This in turn enables the company to create products that solve important challenges for our customers.
AC: Open source is at the heart of the tech industry. Today, every proprietary software product contains open source software. Talented engineers want to work with open source technologies. Open source also represents a knowledge-sharing medium between large companies, the same way researchers use academia to share their discoveries.
How has joining an OSPO shaped your relationship with the broader open source community?
VN: Being at an OSPO is great because you not only collaborate with people from the open source projects you contribute to, but also other like-minded people that contribute to several other domains. It has taught me about the various things that people care about in open source, and that has allowed me to look at things much differently.
AC: Contributing upstream for your day job is a dream that many engineers have. The fact that we engage with those communities on a daily basis gives us a deep understanding of the politics that take place in open source.
What are you most looking forward to doing next as part of the open source community?
VN: I’m really looking forward to bringing new innovation to new and existing projects in the open source community.
AC: I am really excited about my current project: the EdgeX CLI. The tool is still under development, but I am really excited about the idea of having the project officially supported by the community and the tool being an essential part of EdgeX.
What advice would you give to incoming members or new open source contributors? What do you wish you would’ve known that you’re now in a position to impart to others?
VN: The first few contributions are always hard. Once you’re over that, it’s really fun.
AC: Most open source projects need your help. Don’t hesitate to ask questions in the project’s Slack channel and on the weekly Zoom meetings. You will learn from getting exposed to the project in any way. Try installing it on your machine, try reporting some bugs, ask if you can help with any bug fixes or small features. Some projects have labels on their issues like “good first issue” for newcomers like you. These low-hanging fruits are a great way for you to gain experience in the project and to make your mark. Over time, you will become a more important member of the community and other members will directly reach out to you for help on different aspects of the project.
We’re halfway through 2019—in your opinion, what’s been the most promising open source development so far this year? What’s the most exciting thing you see emerging in the latter half of this year?
VN: In the domain that I work with (i.e. service mesh), Istio has shown great promise in the feature sets that have been developed. The folks at Lyft recently open sourced Envoy Mobile that integrates Envoy with iOS and Android, and that’s pretty cool. The community around Istio and Envoy have grown tremendously, and it’s going to get even better. In the latter half, I see a lot of interesting improvements around performance and better networking in Istio, along with enhanced extensibility in Envoy.
AC: Earlier in 2019, multiple different companies/foundations started offering compensation systems for open source developers. These initiatives are a great way to grow open source and encourage people to contribute. In the second half of 2019, I hope to see adoption of these systems and see more hobbyists contributing upstream.
Finally, describe your experience thus far at VMware OSTC in five words or less.
VN: A life-changing experience.
AC: Incredibly fast learning experience.
Speaking of the impact open source programs possess, we recently launched a survey in partnership with The New Stack and The Linux Foundation’s TODO Group around open source enterprise programs like our own VMware OSTC to determine how open source is managed and produced. If you’ve got 10 spare minutes, we would love to hear from you! Find more details about the survey here.
Stay tuned to the Open Source Blog and follow us on Twitter (@vmwopensource) for the latest features and updates from the VMware OSTC. And be sure to follow Venil (@venilnoronha) and Alex (@alexcourouble) on Twitter as well!