7 Communities Driving Open Source Development

Not so long ago, the open source model was the rebellious kid on the block, viewed with suspicion by established industry players. Today, open initiatives and foundations are flourishing with long lists of vendor committers who see the model as a key to innovation.

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Open Development of Tech Drives Innovation

Over the past two decades, open development of technology has come to be seen as a key to driving innovation. Even companies that once saw open source as a threat have come around — Microsoft, for example, is now active in a number of open source initiatives. To date, most open development has focused on software. But even that is changing as communities have begun to coalesce around open hardware initiatives. Here are seven organizations that are successfully promoting and developing open technologies, both hardware and software.

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OpenPOWER Foundation

The OpenPOWER Foundation was founded by IBM, Google, Mellanox, Tyan and NVIDIA in 2013 to drive open collaboration hardware development in the same spirit as the open source software development which has found fertile ground in the past two decades.

IBM seeded the foundation by opening up its Power-based hardware and software technologies, offering licenses to use Power IP in independent hardware products. More than 70 members now work together to create custom open servers, components and software for Linux-based data centers.

In April, OpenPOWER unveiled a technology roadmap based on new POWER8 process-based servers capable of analyzing data 50 times faster than the latest x86-based systems. In July, IBM and Google released a firmware stack. October saw the availability of NVIDIA GPU accelerated POWER8 systems and the first OpenPOWER reference server from Tyan.

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The Linux Foundation

Founded in 2000, The Linux Foundation is now the host for the largest open source, collaborative development effort in history, with more than 180 corporate members and many individual and student members. It sponsors the work of key Linux developers and promotes, protects and advances the Linux operating system and collaborative software development.

Some of its most successful collaborative projects include Code Aurora Forum (a consortium of companies with projects serving the mobile wireless industry), MeeGo (a project to build a Linux kernel-based operating system for mobile devices and IVI) and the Open Virtualization Alliance (which fosters the adoption of free and open source software virtualization solutions).

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Open Virtualization Alliance

The Open Virtualization Alliance (OVA) exists to foster the adoption of free and open source software virtualization solutions like Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) through use cases and support for the development of interoperable common interfaces and APIs. KVM turns the Linux kernel into a hypervisor.

Today, KVM is the most commonly used hypervisor with OpenStack.

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The OpenStack Foundation

Originally launched as an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) product by NASA and Rackspace hosting in 2010, the OpenStack Foundation has become the home for one of the biggest open source projects around. It boasts more than 200 member companies, including AT&T, AMD, Avaya, Canonical, Cisco, Dell and HP.

Organized around a six-month release cycle, the foundation's OpenStack projects are developed to control pools of processing, storage and networking resources through a data center — all managed or provisioned through a Web-based dashboard, command-line tools or a RESTful API. So far, the collaborative development supported by the foundation has resulted in the creation of OpenStack components including OpenStack Compute (a cloud computing fabric controller that is the main part of an IaaS system), OpenStack Networking (a system for managing networks and IP addresses) and OpenStack Object Storage (a scalable redundant storage system).

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OpenDaylight

Another collaborative project to come out of the Linux Foundation, OpenDaylight is a joint initiative of industry vendors, like Dell, HP, Oracle and Avaya founded in April 2013. Its mandate is the creation of a community-led, open, industry-supported framework consisting of code and blueprints for Software-Defined Networking (SDN). The idea is to provide a fully functional SDN platform that can be deployed directly, without requiring other components, though vendors can offer add-ons and enhancements.

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Apache Software Foundation

The Apache Software Foundation (ASF) is home to nearly 150 top level projects ranging from open source enterprise automation software to a whole ecosystem of distributed computing projects related to Apache Hadoop. These projects deliver enterprise-grade, freely available software products, while the Apache License is intended to make it easy for users, whether commercial or individual, to deploy Apache products.

ASF was incorporated in 1999 as a membership-based, not-for-profit corporation with meritocracy at its heart — to become a member you must first be actively contributing to one or more of the foundation's collaborative projects.

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Open Compute Project

An outgrowth of Facebook's redesign of its Oregon data center, the Open Compute Project (OCP) aims to develop open hardware solutions for data centers. The OCP is an initiative made up of cheap, vanity-free servers, modular I/O storage for Open Rack (a rack standard designed for data centers to integrate the rack into the data center infrastructure) and a relatively "green" data center design.

OCP board members include representatives from Facebook, Intel, Goldman Sachs, Rackspace and Microsoft.

OCP recently announced two options for licensing: an Apache 2.0-like license that allows for derivative works and a more prescriptive license that encourages changes to be rolled back into the original software.