Inner-Sourcing: Adopting Open Source Development Processes In Corporate IT

Tim Yeaton | OpenSourceDelivers | August 29, 2012

Compared to many engineering disciplines, software development – which began in earnest in the mid-20th Century – is still in its youth.   The science and art of software development have progressed in two broad threads: the tools themselves (IDEs, compilers, languages, frameworks, build/CI systems, etc.) and the development methodologies employed – which together determine the efficiency, scalability and flexibility of the development process. At the same time, development processes have evolved from closed, completely internal and highly controlled processes to more collaborative, agile and open approaches, utilizing many open source components. The methodologies have evolved considerably, as have the tools that enable these methods – from ad hoc to waterfall to agile.  Today, we are hearing from customers more and more frequently that they want to gain the benefits of open source community-style collaborative development inside their corporate development organizations – what Tim O’Reilly has called “inner-sourcing.”

Tim O’Reilly coined the term “inner-sourcing” in 2000, describing it as: “the use of open source development techniques within the corporation.”  Tim observed even back then that the collaborative, self-motivated, meritocratic process of open source development was different and had several potential advantages over traditional development, particularly on dimensions of improving quality (the multiple eyeballs phenomenon noted by Eric Raymond in “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” in 1999), the ability to enhance innovation (multiple brains collaborating on the same problem), and the sharing and reuse of code. Prof. Dirk Riehle, University Erlangen-Nurnberg, Germany, describes “inner source” in much the same way, and his research on open collaboration within corporations finds similar benefits...