In this episode, Dirk Hohndel, VP and Chief Open-Source Officer at VMware, joins me to discuss the enterprise readiness of open source projects.

When an enterprise customer looks at a solution to serve its user-base, it considers many different factors before picking up a solution. Unlike proprietary technologies, which are offered by a commercial entity, open source projects are maintained and managed by distributed communities. There is no one throat to choke. That leads to additional factors that an enterprise must consider before choosing an open source project to power its products and services. What are those additional factors? How can open source projects ensure that they meet the needs of their users, including enterprise users? There are many such questions that we wanted to explore in this episode – from both sides of the equation, the enterprise users and open source projects. It’s one of the most interesting and valuable discussions I have had with Dirk. Here are some of the topics we covered:

  • When an enterprise user picks a software solution to power its services, it looks at a lot of different factors. Open Source doesn’t change anything, it has to pass through all those criteria too. Just because it’s open-source doesn’t mean it should get an easy pass. So, what does it mean to be good enough to be appropriate for enterprise use?
  • How to ensure that the project you are going to pick has a healthy community and development efforts behind it? Does it get regular updates? Does the community appreciate user feedback and cater to what its users need? There are so many factors that may play a role in whether you want to rely on that open source project or not.
  • Who else is using the project? Is it already catering to the kind of use-case you are bringing to the project? At the same time, you can also be the first one to bring your use-case to the project.
  • Should you care about the license under which the project is released? Should you worry about compliance and compatibility with other open-source projects you are using or the code that you are developing internally and will integrate with the open-source project?
  • Should you look at a project that has a vendor backing or vendor-supported version if your scale needs additional functionality or support as maintaining it yourself can become more costly over time?
  • Open source has many competing projects that do the same thing – how to pick the right one for you?