Reputation Matters: Earning Your Stripes In Open Source

To invest in open source is to invest in innovation. Nearly 100% of VMware products touch open source software (OSS) – as components, as core functions or features, part of the build or as part of the software development process. It’s just not possible to build software today without open source. And with that widespread reliance on open source comes a responsibility and obligation to compliance, collaboration and to the many communities both inside VMware and beyond its “badges.” 

At VMware, that obligation and commitment starts with our Open Source Program Office and extends throughout our VMware community. VMware’s Open Source Program Office (OSPO) provides mentorship, education and leadership for our R&D and engineering teams, in addition to direct upstream contributions or creation of new open source projects. And because it matters, we regularly take stock to better understand the impact of our community participation. For the second consecutive year, VMware co-sponsored a study conducted by The New Stack, a media and research company, along with the Linux Foundation TODO group to measure the impact of concerted, directed efforts of companies to guide OSS use and to gauge the perception of companies participating in the open source community. You can find the full analysis at The New Stack, Constructive Open Source Citizenship Produces Results and review the data and survey methodology on GitHub


Among the questions posed in the survey are two perception questions: one on corporate open source citizenship, and one to gauge the impact of a company’s reputation. The survey also asks respondents to reveal their level of involvement in open source communities – do they “rarely, sometimes, often or frequently” contribute to open source projects or communities. Earning our stripes in open source communities starts with the work we do in and with other collaborators and contributors – those individuals who participate “sometimes, often or frequently.” As Ben Franklin said, “It takes many good deeds to build a reputation and only one bad one to ruin it.” As VMware strives to bring its very best into each community, we know that our actions do not go unnoticed. In their analysis, The New Stack reports, “VMware saw the biggest jump in positive (excellent or above average) ratings from frequent contributors, going from 28% in 2019 to 37% in 2020.” We know this is a journey, but it’s one we’re delighted to be on and we’re committed to its future.

Good Citizenship

Compliance is a primary goal of VMware’s OSPO, along with strategy, community and tooling. We’re a member of the Automated Compliance Tooling Initiative (ACT) and have donated a VMware-originated project, Tern, in support of that effort. The team serves both tactical and strategic initiatives while providing mentorship, training and coaching to build expertise in open source throughout the company whether contributing to or maintaining an existing project, or creating a VMware-originated project. 


Our leadership team nurtures project health and community growth. The entire OSPO team and a broad community of VMware employees contributes when it comes to events. VMware is not only a top tier sponsor, but also a content reviewer and contributes to events such as Open Source Summit, KubeCon, Linux Plumbers, SCaLE and more. VMware recently joined or increased commitment to a number of open source foundations including: Let’s Encrypt, LFPH, OpenSSF and FinOPS.


Our actions and investments extend well beyond code. Our engineers continue to contribute code but they also contribute technical expertise and community management behind the scenes. So much of a community or project’s success can hinge on someone shouldering those “administrative” tasks – chop wood and carry water. In the CNCF and Kubernetes community for instance, VMware employees lead more than 10 Special Interest Groups, participate on the Technical Oversight Committee, and are frequent contributors to workshops and events. Since the 2019 survey, two additional VMware-originated projects have been donated to foundations: Contour to the CNCF and Tern to the ACT Initiative.

Good Open Source Community Citizenship Continues to Matter

VMware believes that open source citizenship matters – that it is at the root of collaboration. It’s important to note that participation and contribution to open source isn’t about charity or obligation. “Open source participation is a win-win for the company and the community…” Joe Beda, principal engineer at VMware, said. “This isn’t about philanthropy, it’s about the opportunity for all and innovation at speed.” By fully participating in open source communities, the shared value of innovation becomes more attainable. With more diverse participation, more use cases come to light; more possible solutions brought to bear, more ideas vetted. And the best solution comes to light that much sooner. To operate in any other manner would not serve the community or our customers. 


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