Open Source For Business E03 with Guy Martin

E03: Guy Martin on measuring the ROI of open source contributions and the similarities between open standards and open source


Henry: Hello and welcome to the third episode of Open Source for Business brought to you by OpenTeams – the B2B marketplace for open source support and services. I’m Henry Badgery and co-hosting with me today is Eunice.

Eunice: Hi, I’m Eunice Chendjou, and I’m the VP of Partners at OpenTeams

Henry and I are very excited to welcome our guest for this episode – Guy Martin, the Executive Director at OASIS. Oasis is a global nonprofit consortium that works on the development, convergence, and adoption of open standards for security, Internet of Things, energy and many other areas. 

Henry: Guy is very well known within the open source community and has spent time helping build strategic open source consulting offerings at Red Hat, he contributed to launching an open source group at Samsung, and he recently left Autodesk where he was directing their open source strategy efforts. 

Guy is active on social media and can be found on LinkedIn and on Twitter @guyma. I’d also recommend checking out some of the impressive work OASIS has been doing to fight COVID-19. You can find a collection of their work at

Now that the introductions are out of the way, let’s dive right in. Guy, thank you so much for joining us today.

Guy Martin: Thank you, Henry and Eunice. I’m really, really excited to be here and great to talk about all the work that Oasis is doing and how we’re dealing with open source standards.

Henry Badgery:  Fantastic. You’ve published a lot of articles and that’s what I found when I was doing my research and your name is popped up quite a bit in the last few months as I’ve been working on open teams, you giving presentations around the world and you’re definitely a thought leader in the open source space.

You’ve been involved for around or close to 15 years which is incredible. But when talking with you before this podcast, you mentioned that you actually fell into this career by accident. So, on that note, I’d actually like you to ask, I’ll ask you to sort of take us back to where you started and give us an idea of actually how you got here today.

Guy’s Journey To OASIS

Guy Martin: Sure, yeah. I basically started as an engineer. So, consider myself an engineer. Now I don’t write code for a living. I write code to annoy the housemates when the IoT stuff doesn’t work. But so I’m still an engineer. And I got a computer science degree. And I really started out writing software for a variety of things, everything from embedded to enterprise, Java beans, and kind of everything in between. And what I realized the sort of early on in my career was that I was an adequate engineer. I was a reasonably good engineer, but I was never going to be the world’s next great engineer, which was kind of the passion that I had I got a computer science.

But what was interesting is that I could actually talk and communicate with non-technical audiences and explain to them what was going on technology. And so I ended up with being the person who got assigned from the engineering team to work with quality assurance or customers. And for the first half of my career, I think I kind of thought that I kind of was like, Well, no I’m still an engineer, and I want to do this community management or these other things. And about halfway through my career, kind of the light bulb clicked on.

And then I said, wait a minute; I actually am a more of a community manager, business strategist, person with a technology background. And once that switch went on, it just made life a whole lot easier in reality, because it opened up opportunities for me to work in open source consulting, to work in community management, and to work and leadership, which is what I’m doing today.

Henry Badgery: Fantastic. And so I know that the community management and what did it look like back then is the same does do it was the exact same as it looked like today?

Evolution Of Community Management

Guy Martin: Well, I think we didn’t really call it community management. I mean, I look back on my career and some of my first roles again, being the engineer assigned from the engineering team to quality assurance, testing customer, you know, integrate tests. We had built a community, we were building communities of these groups that were very disparate and we just weren’t calling it that. And then for example, when I was at Sun Microsystems and building out the Java car project, which was a GM EV1 that we basically outfitted with a ton of electronics.

And by the way, this was for the telematics age. So, we were doing some really crazy things like getting this GM EV1, putting a bunch of hardware in it, ripping up the carpet, running Ethernet cables, right, having a bunch of wireless stuff in the back. But we were a small skunkworks team in some lab, I was doing this there were three of us and to actually get this car to a point where we could use it for demos and we could do experiments on networking.

We had to rely on a community of other software engineers at Sun at the time in Java and Java soft division and across the organization. And so looking back on it, we did that we built essentially a community, what could be called an inner source community now, right so it was open source stuff but within the firewall of sun, and we had some order on the order of 15 to 17 people who contributed code to that project by the time that was done.

I think what’s interesting is that I didn’t think about that as community management as a practice back then. But it just ended up being something that I found I was naturally good at, so that was kind of the nice thing about that is it got me to a point where I’m at a better point in my career in terms of doing things that I love and still getting to do technology.

Henry Badgery: Awesome. That’s amazing. It’s interesting to see just how has changed over the years because it really is mainstream now. It seems like a lot of these biggest companies either have an open source program office or at least an open source group of some sort.

So, I was wondering if you could take us back and tell us what was that trend, what did that transition look like from almost where it was growing organically and wasn’t as mainstream as it is today, to the extent where now we’ve got companies contributing to open source everywhere.

Guy Martin: Yeah, I mean, I think you I can go back to when I was at Motorola, and we built as sort of an open source office, but we didn’t call it that it was mainly an open source office that was there to quote-unquote, protect Motorola in terms of licensing and making sure that we did all the right things in terms of the licensing perspective in open source.

And so I think, in my opinion, those early open source offices were more about making sure that companies felt like, okay, we’re dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s when it comes to licensing and kind of all those other very tactical areas of open source. But they weren’t designed, I think, at that point to be the kind of outward-facing open source offices that we have today, where those offices are responsible for compliance and license issues, but they’re also responsible for working with the upstream open source communities are responsible for helping train internal developers at that at the company to understand how to work effectively with upstream open source community.

I think the role of an OSPO and by the way, there are tons of different OSPO’s and every company sort has a slightly different take on it depending on what they need. But I think you’re seeing more open source program offices in the modern era that are responsible for kind of the outbound marketing and the outbound engagement with open source communities as well as training people inside the company to be more effective at how they contribute or collaborate with open source communities.

Henry Badgery:  Okay, it’s just it seems to be like it where we’re riding that trend now of having an ISPO or we’re contributing like I was saying before. My understanding is it wasn’t always like that and I’d like to know from you and get your perspective of what you saw.

What are the different schools of thought that at least used to be the case for companies wanting to contribute to open source? And can you explain how those perspectives have sort of evolved to where we are today where most, a lot of companies at least are contributing to open source?

Comparing The Different Schools Of Thought Towards Contributing

Guy Martin: Yeah, when I actually put together the consulting offering at Red Hat around strategic open source consulting, we kind of came up with this graphic, which if you can imagine the Google Chrome logo pad strategy and governance at the core, right making sure you understand that and then have rockers around, consume, collaborate and create. And we did that because that’s kind of the main areas that you think about in open source, you have to get the strategy and governance, the why and how right are you? Do you understand why you’re participating in open source are using it? Most companies will start with a consumer, right?

That’s kind of the area that a lot of companies really and again, that goes back to the the, you know, needing to protect intellectual property and do the licensing and a compliance piece as well. But and then I think a lot of companies I don’t want to say fought, but they kind of were like, early on, wait we’re contributing IP back to this other entity that we they’re not us.

And there was a lot of, I think, evolution thereof organizations going; wait, like, why am I contributing IP back to this other thing, and then once they started to understand that, hey, I’m contributing this IP back but other people, including my competitors, are contributing IP to this project and its non-differentiated intellectual prowess.

Right, it’s the things that we all have to use, right? We don’t need to all real rebuild the highway, right? We’re all running on the highway, we don’t all need to do our own specific version of OSPO’s, right, we need to, we need to do things in a way that allows us all to benefit from those things. And I think that’s kind of where organizations have, I think made the most growth and open source program offices are a big part of that is getting people to understand social business leaders to understand that you were giving away quote, unquote, giving away intellectual property, but you’re doing it in service of your other goals.

You’re doing it in service of, you know, being able to take your engineering resources and have most of them work on that 20% differentiated, intellectual property that’s built on top of the 80% of open source of the best in class organizations used today.

Eunice Chendjou: Wow, that’s awesome. And I think now that you’ve provided context, I’d like to shift focus just a little bit.

What are some of the most important factors a company should consider when choosing to use an open source project?

Choosing To Use An Open Source Project

Guy Martin: I think one of the big ones for me and probably from a community; community standpoint is what the community health is and I’ve been involved in decisions about what open source gets used in an organization and sometimes it can be. And I say this as an engineer, sometimes it can be a little engineering-focused as it has this open source project has XYZ feature that we need but if the community health isn’t great, right, if it’s something that’s an abandoned project, that you know, was out there and then hasn’t gotten a lot of traction in quite a while, you as an organization, even though they have the features you want, if you bring that into your organization, you are then probably going to be responsible for maintaining that going forward.

And the benefit of a healthy open source community is that you’re not the only one, your organization is not the only one maintaining that. So, I think Community Health is a huge part of that, for me, making sure that obviously it’s got technical fitness for what you need but that the community is healthy and that you’re not picking up an essentially that project and trying to manage that all yourself.

Now, some cases that may work right where you maybe an organization sort of reboots an open source community project that hasn’t had a lot of traction. But it’s one of the things when I did consult, that, that I really stress to business leaders is kind of have a process where your engineering organization weighs in on, you know, the engineering fitness of an open source project, but that you also look at the Community Health of that project.

Henry Badgery: How do you actually measure community health?

Guy Martin: Well, there’s a lot of different ways, right. And I think one of the nice things look a small plug here for the chaos project, if you haven’t heard of that the chaos project is about metrics and it’s actually run by a lot of folks that are friends and colleagues of mine.

And they’re basically trying to answer that exact question, right, because you can measure it. Very, very tactically around, okay, how many code contributions have come in but I think it’s also important to look at, you know, what does the support community look like right, is there an active, vibrant set of forums where people are talking about this project.

When was last released, there’s some there are kind of different ways quantitative and qualitative ways you can look at measuring community health. I think the chaos project has done a great job, of trying to crystallize those into something that we can all use in the industry.

Eunice Chendjou: That’s very good. I think one of the biggest things that I’ve heard from a lot of companies is really trying to answer that exact question in terms of, you know how do we know if an open source project is actually hurting healthy and we’re contributing stuff to the open source project if I decide to use this, we’re going to be the maintenance.

I think it’s a big question that I’m not sure we have figure out the right answer yet. But there are definitely a few resources out there to help us with that. And so, I know you’ve spoken online a lot about the importance of tracking metrics when it comes to open source.

So, what metrics should businesses focus on when considering the return on investment of using open source?

Metrics To Measure ROI When Using Open Source

Guy Martin: Whoo. Boy, that’s an interesting one because I think it kind of it depends on there are certain things like community health, right, that are one of those. But it also, you know, kind of depends on your individual situation as an organization, are you a large organization that is willing to take on, you know, these projects that maybe are smaller and don’t have as many contributions or maybe your need is different as the project stable, right is it something that you’re not going to see a lot of upgrades, it can still be a healthy project, right.

But you may not have a lot of code contributions, for example. So, I don’t know if I had an exact answer for that specifically because it kind of depends on the situation, you may see a project that has a ton of incoming contributions, and maybe it still doesn’t have technical fitness for your organization.

So, but understanding sort of what metrics are important to you and what are the common ones, again, number of code contributions, number of bug reports that are coming in how fast those bug reports are being handled, how fast incoming pull requests to that project are being dealt with because you can have a project with a lot of contributions or a lot of pull requests to it. And those pull requests are not being managed in away.

I mean, they’re taking, you know, six months to put in a pull request. You know, that’s as an organization, you have to look at that and go, Wow, is that the kind of project that is going to be useful for me, especially as my organization starts contributing more to it.

Henry Badgery: Its dilemma that a lot of people have is just so honest, they just want you to start leaving issues too long. That is pile and pile and pile. And yeah, I think a lot of little project maintainers have sort of lying to me about that being a problem.

Eunice Chendjou: So you’ve had experience building an open source world like Samsung, and you lead open source strategy at Autodesk for those listening, what is an Open Source Program Office and why would any company want to like once one?

Open Source Program Office’s

Guy Martin: Well, it’s actually funny that you’re mentioning this because I’m in the middle of helping build out refresher training for the Linux Foundation around that very topic. One of those topics is an open source program office, why do you want one. They just actually finished writing that module the other day.

So, fresh in my mind, I think it’s the central place where your organization’s it’s kind of the central Nexus around everything you do and open source, now that software development may be done in other parts of the organization. But having a central place that that is helps be responsible for training, helps be responsible for making sure that the liaison with legal is happening and that all of the compliance issues are taking being taken care of.

And then also, again, the place I think we’re the central nexus of training happens in terms of making sure that your organization gets the most out of engaging with open source because I think, you know, there’s been a lot of talk over the years around, you know, free isn’t as in freedom or free as in beer, looking at open source and open source is not free, it’s there’s no free lunch here.

So, as an organization, you get a lot of value from the innovative power of open source and the fact that got multiple people that are contributing to this from all over the world. I mean, all you have to do is look at the Linux kernel, right, it’s running, it’s the basis for pretty much everything from my watch to a bunch of stuff that we’re all relying on. But you know, it really requires an organization to have a central place and it doesn’t have to be a huge staff type of place.

But a central place where clearinghouse for all these things can be dealt with, and you know, can be a place where the company is represented out to the external community because you’re getting some representation from software development teams that are working with open source but at a corporate level, having the ability to have a place that can do things like make sure events get sponsored or make sure that you know that the right things are happening and the right open source projects that you care about are keeping healthy.

I think that those are all areas where an open source program office can really help. And so I think there’s there is a threshold. If you’re, if you’re a two-person company, having an Open Source Program Office probably is not the right approach. But once you get to a certain level in terms of both people, projects that you’re working on revenue, all those things, then, it makes sense to think about what an Open Source Program Office can look like.

And one of the things I talked about in the training module that I’m building is that your Open Source Program Office should follow kind of the mantra that the rest of the open source world does around release early release often. You don’t need to build a 500 person open source program office, to begin with, you know, you could start with one or two people. I mean, when we were at Samsung going to help start that open source program office, we started with four people and we grew it to about close to 20 by the time we were done, but it we actually just continued to iterate.

So, I think you don’t have to build out the whole thing from the beginning. But starting small and understanding what are the most important things that that organization needs to worry about an open source is a great way to get started.

Eunice Chendjou: Yeah, that’s pretty awesome. And I think from my perspective, and from what I’ve heard a lot is that case opening and an Open Source Program Office definitely started when a company starts to pick up in the open source contribution.

But for some of the companies that are only users of open source, how will you convince them and I don’t even know if this is a silly thing, because, in my mind, I’m just like, if you use it, you have to contribute. But I do know that I see some organizations out there that only use open source but don’t contribute back.

Why will you encourage any company to contribute back to open source projects their use, and what advice do you have for them when they’re getting started?

How To Best Contribute

Guy Martin: So I’ll answer that by telling you a little story and I will not mention the company. But it was one of the companies that I’ve had in the past that thought, we’re only going to use open source, we don’t need to contribute back or we don’t want to give away IP. And it was a very illustrative story because the engineering team came to me for this open source project. And I won’t mention the project because that’ll also give away which company it was.

But they came to me and said, hey we have this upstream chain and we have these changes these bug fixes we’ve made for this project and we’re going to go ahead and contribute the back. And I said, Oh, great that’s awesome. Have you been looking at the mailing list? Have you been figuring out if the rest of the community has been participating figuring in the rest of the community is even a once these changes, maybe they’ve already fixed it?

They’re like, oh, no, no, no, we’re just going to push, and we’re just going to give these changes back because well, we don’t want to deal with it anymore. And I said Okay, good luck. And it came back to me about a week later and said; oh, yeah, the community already fixed that in our release. That was four releases ago, right because this company again, was like, we’re going to take this version of open source, we’re not going to get it back we’re only going to use it.

And they had hadn’t updated the internal version of this, this open source project that was being used to build a product they hadn’t updated and four major revisions, then they’re like, oh, we’re going to contribute these changes back for these bug fixes. Well, now you’re in a really, really weird spot because you’ve, you’ve put engineering resources into fixing these bugs. And so you kind of want some return on investment there.

But you’re also four major revisions behind, and oh, to be able to, to pull that those the most recent version. And because there’s a security fix or something else, you’re now in this chicken and egg situation where you’re kind of going to expend extra engineering resources either way. And so what I use that story because it’s very illustrative about organizations that think they’re only ever going to use open source, it’s just I’ve never seen that actually happen in practice.

Eventually, you’re going to find a bug that maybe is an edge case, and it’s not, doesn’t show up except how you use that code, open source code in a product and you’ve got to fix it, or the open source community doesn’t have the time and energy to fix it and if you want to fork that version of an open source project, only use it, never contribute back, never engage with the open source community, you’re actually building a bigger support burden for yourself to actually have to worry about that rather than if you paid the cost of, you know, contributing back, keeping up with that community, that cost is actually lower in the long run than the strategy of ‘Oh, I’m just going to keep this thing internally and do my own thing with it.

And I don’t have to contribute back and I’m just going to grab this code and freeze it in time’. Because we all know to write code has never gets frozen in time. There are always changes and having a strategy where we’re only ever going to use open source. We’re never going to contribute back. I just haven’t seen it work in practice because technology changes and bugs are found and features are needed.

Henry Badgery: Okay, that’s fascinating. And we all know how much work the forking takes people companies, I think convinced themself that Oh, yes, this is going to help us.

We going to have to work with open source community were going to change, but you just end up spending so much money over time. And we actually I was it was with a few people once and someone said this very funny thing they said, companies just have to stop forking themselves.

Guy Martin: I wish I’d thought about that back then that would have been a great, great use.

Henry Badgery: But contributing to open source, it is one side of the spectrum. And then another thing that a lot of companies have been doing, and it’s definitely a growing trend is open sourcing a lot of their code.

When should a company open source their code and what does that process look like?

Open-sourcing A Company Project

Guy Martin: Well, I can start with saying when they shouldn’t open source their code is if they’re trying to get rid of something that’s legacy and they think, oh, we’re going to put it out there and get, you know, a bunch of great PR around it. Try not to open source stuff that you end up liking. I mean, sometimes there’s a case for that. If it’s a file format, I was at an organization where there was a very popular file format.

They weren’t going to maintain it anymore and the community had to demand to maintain it and then they open sourced it, but they went into it with eyes open, as opposed to just saying, Oh, we don’t need this code anymore, we’re going to throw it over the wall. In terms of when you should, I think there are a couple of things to think about one is doing is the code that you have going to be something that you want to promote as a standard, a de facto standard that everyone in the industry uses, including your competitors.

If that’s the case, then that’s an opportunity to open source it and kind of, again, share that cost burden with everybody in the industry. It can be used, you can open source code to use that as a disrupter in terms of, you know, changing the industry, making the industry move in a particular direction that’s beneficial for your organization.

But you have to temper that with understanding that when you open source something like that, you probably have six to eight months where you’re your organization that originally wrote the code has first-mover advantage, but then everybody has eventually to catch up. So, I think it’s important to understand that the things you open source, obviously, you’re not going to open source core intellectual property that is your differentiating value, right.

But you may open source things that are around that code that supports something that you know, is your differentiated value, but that you want everything, again, want everyone in the industry to use. So, I think there are just some things you think about when you open source internal code and then another area of that to think about is sort of what is the health of the cleanliness of that code?

So I’ve helped organizations do this, where we go through code review, and we’re like, Ooh, yeah, we’re not when we want to open source the code, but we don’t want that comment in there or we don’t you know, or that exposes something that you know, ties back to something that we’re not going to open source. So, there’s some health things that you need to do some sanity and sanitation, things you need to do before you open source that code. But making the decision to do I think is largely around what’s value for you as an organization.

Henry Badgery: Okay, I really like how you touched on the sort of starting what you shouldn’t do. And I think there are just so many lessons that I think have been learned recently and over the decades as open source has grown.

But for the benefit of those listening, and since you do have such a vast array of experience in the open source industry, I wanted to ask what was some of the biggest mistakes that you’ve witnessed companies make when either using or when managing open source?

Biggest Mistakes Companies Make

Guy Martin: Oh boy, trying to pick to ones that I can talk about without examining or without giving which company it was. Yeah, I use the one example already of engineers and then an organization that said, Hey, we’re only going to consume this thing, and then all sudden we have changes we’re going to contribute those back and the bugs being fixed. So, that’s one mistake I saw.

One I kind of alluded to and touched on of falling prey to the metrics, and I love metrics as an engineer, but falling prey to the metrics of we’re going to create, you know, 10 new open source projects this year. That’s our metric. We want to create 10 new open source projects, not we want to create, you know, five great open source projects, but we’re just going to grow in quantity, not quality. That’s a big one.

I’ve seen that happen a couple of times and what ends up happening is the organization basically gets a bad, bad reputation in the open source world of they’re just throwing stuff over the wall to throw stuff over the wall. We’ll see it what’s another one, I think, not strategically thinking about what open source you’re going to consume. This is actually one I’ve seen quite a bit where organizations will just kind of let it grows organically, where a lot of engineers will just cut and paste, bring things in, and there’s not a good compliance process.

And by that, I mean what good, I mean, not one that is so restrictive that engineers don’t want to go use open source, and not one that is so loose that it’s just it’s like the Wild West inside your organization, but somewhere in the middle that you both strategically think about what open source makes sense for you to bring in.

But you have the processes in place to make sure that you’re not violating licenses, you’re not combining a piece of open source with one license with an incompatible another piece of open source and then making sure that if you don’t do that, you’re not going to have the issue of sort of the viral nature of GPL. So, there was a specific instance where code was brought in and it actually went through the checking process.

But the threshold, we were using a tool at the time, I won’t say which tool that checked to see in an incoming piece of code that we got from a supplier that it had, whether it had open source or not. Well, it turns out the code did have open source but it was at a threshold below at the reporting threshold was at the tool.

And the issue was that if it were any other license other than GPL wouldn’t be a big deal. But it was GPL and as we know, for those that don’t know, the GPL has a viral property where if you combine it with a piece of proprietary code, you can in some cases be responsible for them making sure that the proprietary code is available, which obviously, is an issue for an organization that’s using that code for the provide differentiated value. So, that was an interesting time as we navigated that one.

Henry Badgery: Okay, that’s definitely a great mistake to learn from.

Is that so in terms of understanding who consumes and I guess that makes those decisions, does that start at the OSPOs since that’s the heart of almost open source excellence, or is it start with the engineering team who is trained by the OSPO. What does that look like?

Guy Martin: I think it has to start with the engineering team because even in the most, the largest, OSPO is OASIS that I’ve seen. There’s just too much going on in a big organization where to make that the bottleneck. They think they need to help with the training. They need to be part of helping create those processes, but they need to be. It’s kind of strange and OSPO almost sits between two worlds that you need to be an advocate for the company and for the engineering teams, you kind of need to be an advocate for the open source world. So, there’s an interesting sort of juxtaposition you have as somebody who’s in an OSPO, but yeah, I think it has to start with the engineering team. So, those engineering teams need to feel like they have the tools and processes in place to be able to consume that resource and know that they’re consuming it in a way that’s going to be consistent with company policy.

Henry Badgery: Okay, great. And then I’d like to shift gears a little bit and focus on your current role at OASIS. So, I know that you what actually prompted you to leave Autodesk where you’re working on building out the OSPO there that Open Source Program Office’s, for those listening, to then move to OASIS where you’re now working on open source and standards.

Open Standards & Open Source At OASIS

Guy Martin: Yeah, it was a very interesting opportunity. I think one of the things if you go back and look sort of at my history is I worked on a project called forged mail for US Department of Defense. And it was the first opportunity, really one of the first opportunities in government to really work on sort of community building inner source, open source types of things.

And what was interesting is, it was ahead of its time in a lot of ways, and we didn’t get some of the uptake. We had some good successes, but we didn’t get some of the uptake that we wanted. And a lot of the reason we didn’t get the uptake had nothing to do with technology or really even culture because there were a lot of people in government that really wanted this to work.

It was all about the procurement process, right and the procurement processes that were put in place in highly regulated environments like government, or finance, or medical are built around standards. And so getting open source into that environment was a bit challenging right now that it’s improved since then. And you’ve got organizations like RedHat, for example, that have been doing great work within governments. But I think there’s still this legacy in some of these procurement processes that they’re based upon open standards.

And I would love to see as an open source person more open source innovation being used in these highly regulated industries and so when the OASIS opportunity came up, I looked at this and said, Wow, that’s this is a great place to be that we want to marry the amazing reputation that OASIS has a standards definition organization and great relationship they have in government, great relationships they have with other standards definition or it’s like is ISO, ITU, WTC, all of those and marry that with open source in a way that actually allows that to be the best of both worlds.

Because I also think about it I wrote about this in an article recently. If you actually go back to the history of the beginnings of the internet and the beginnings of all the things we rely on now. They’re based on their standards, right HTTP, for example. And there’s an open source implementation of that.

So, it’s always sorts of been this way. And then I think maybe recently in most recent past, you’ve sort of had, for whatever reason, the differentiation of oh, this is open source and open standards, and the two of them aren’t compatible. And that actually absolutely is not the case. And so, I think the opportunity to OASIS was, was something that I think of as a way to demystify open source in these in these highly regulated industries that rely on standards as their main procurement mechanism.

Eunice Chendjou:  That’s very interesting. And for those of us listening today, what exactly does OASIS do?

Guy Martin: So, OASIS is, you know, as you mentioned at the beginning, we’re a standard definition organization. So, an organization that helps the industry define standards, but we’re also an organization that helps host open source and helps do open source projects, with the opportunity for those open source projects that have a path towards standardization.

And that’s the really key element. I think everybody, a lot of people in my open source community again looked at me when I decided to go to OASIS and said, wait, that seems like a very divergent career move for you to go-to standards. And I actually don’t think it is I think that I’ve had some experience in the past with the open connectivity foundation, for example, where we had a which is a project around putting an abstraction layer on top of Internet of things devices to hide the networking layer, so that application developers can write to one interface not have to worry about easy wave all these different other wireless protocols.

And that organization started out as a standard definition body that then had an open source reference implementation of that standard. And in seeing that and doing that work with the OCF, I saw that there’s a great opportunity for those two communities to work together, right, the open standards, folks, and the open source folks because a lot of what happened in OCF, for example, was that the open source reference of limitation, a feature would come in that hadn’t been considered in the standard.

But then the standards look like oh, yeah, we missed that we need to go back and deal with that and vice versa, there would be things that would come in in the standard that the open source project would say, oh, yeah we have to account for that. And the beauty of having the standard is that you are then able to not only get it into, these highly regulated industries, but you also have the opportunity to define interoperability in a way that allows multiple different implementations.

And I think that’s the one area where maybe in open source, we look at interoperability at the API layer, as opposed to the whole implementation layers. In other words, in other words, can you do an implementation in a different language, different platform, and is there going to be interoperability so you know, I think OASIS is an organization that that has traditionally been only really on the standard side in the last couple of years even before I joined.

They’ve been making a move towards bringing open source in and helping open source projects figure out a way to get to standardization. So, it’s kind of it’s in essence, it’s like a community-building exercise. I think OASIS is a great place for the two communities, the open source, and the standards community to come together.

Eunice Chendjou: Yeah, definitely make sense.

And I think you’ve mentioned this a little bit, but I’m just curious, you know, in a more structured way, why would any business care about open standards?

Guy Martin: I mean, businesses do care about open standards. And I think it’s interesting that it kind of depends on the business that you’re in. I think a lot of, again, more highly regulated types of industries, like medical, for example, care heavily about standards, right, especially as it relates to things like medical equipment, you want and, you know, we all want our medical equipment to conform to standards so that you actually have some interoperability if you’ve got you know, a pacemaker made by one company and, you know, some sort of other monitoring tool made by a different company, they should be able to exchange data and in service of the ultimate end user, which is the patient.

So, I think, you know, having standards be continued to be a core value in our society and with organizations like OASIS is really, really important.

Henry Badgery:  So you briefly touched on it before, but for the industries and regulatory bodies that OASIS has relationships with, what’s their perspective of open source?

Guy Martin: I think everyone has seen that you know the running joke is open source is one it has to a degree. I mean, maybe not on the desktop, right. Everyone jokes about when is, you know when it’s going to be the desktop environment.

But I think everywhere else, the industry is sort of figured out that open sources one, but these areas that traditionally rely on standards, I think it’s, in some ways the perception is that open source is still a little bit of the Wild West. And I don’t really think that’s the case. I think, you know, some of the best open source projects out there are run really, really effectively and being able to say, okay, hey, this open source project conforms to the standard.

So, if you don’t want to use its open source code great, you can go off and write your own and there’s going to be interoperability. I think that these organizations that have traditionally only dealt with standards, will feel more comfortable with open source as again as the marriage between open source and standards becomes a little bit more of a reality.

Henry Badgery: Okay, so it seems that OASIS is almost uniquely positioned, and you use the word to demystify, which I really liked before open source to the open standard people you deal with open standards.

So, what does that look like, what does that look like since you’ve been there and after talking to people who have been there for a while, and what impact you think OASIS is going to have in that regard?

Guy Martin: So my vast experience of four months to see is the OASIS executive director. You know, I think what it looks like is that both OASIS the organization and the people that we serve recognize that this is important. So, a little side story and this little can give some color to this. So, the number of people in the open source world that sort of doing what I do sort of the open source program, office business strategy, we joke and it’s actually not that big of a joke, there are about 40 or 50 of us in the world.

We all know each other. And so it’s not surprising when these opportunities like the OASIS executive director come up that that you kind of know other people that are also going for the role. The other two finalists were three finalists for this well the other two finalists, I know colleagues in the open source world, but I think what was interesting is that as I look back as executive director is as to what the hiring process looks like.

All three finalists for the role were open source people. And I think that shows that the organization and the work that has been going on with open projects for almost two years. The open projects, part of OASIS shows that the organization believes, and the constituents of the organization, the members and the people that we serve, believe that open sources are extremely important.

And I think that the move towards making sure that we bring in open source expertise that we have an advisory council, for example, at OASIS that is comprised of a lot of those, those 40 or 50 people that I talked about, and their role is to help OASIS and me make sure that we again, marry open source and standards in a way that that does not get rid of standards.

I think it’s one of the things that I’ve been really adamant about as I’ve come on board, both with members and staff and, and our board of directors is that my job is not to come in and make OASIS an open source organization purely.

My job is to come in and bring enough open source in and marry it with the great value we have in standards, so that when our constituents look at and members, look at what OASSI is doing, they’re like okay, we see value there, we see value in the open standards work and how it ties in with open source.

The Changing Landscape Of Open Source

Eunice Chendjou:  Awesome. Well, guys, you’ll have all that a decade of experience in open source industry, and one thing that I always ask I guess is if you want to compare open source today to what was 10 years ago.

What a difference stands out the most to you?

Guy Martin: I think the obvious notion is that it’s mainstream right. I think when I started an open source it was there were network open source program offices but did the prevailing way that people thought about open source especially I think at the business and strategic level is, oh that’s scary, I’m not sure what to do about that right.

My engineers were telling me I should use this but I don’t know the kind of if this is going to make sense or is this is going to expose me to issues. That is gone right I think every business leader I’ve ever talked to now you know in in the most recent past has said we are we understand you know it’s not an option we have to use open source because, you know we’re competing against organizations we try to build everything ourselves, we’re beating our organizations that are using 80 percent open source focusing their engineering value on that 20 percent are you at and we’re not going to be able to keep that.

So, I think that’s the biggest one of biggest changes are seen as the acceptance of open source as you know just a given and doing something with it in an intelligent way is really important and I think that’s what most organizations see now is that they have to do something with open source in an intelligent way and hence the growth of the open source program office.

The Future Of Open Source

Eunice Chendjou:  Exactly and I think definitely is that we’ve all seen that change what happened over the last 2 decades with open source but so what do you see the future of open source would be like. 

Guy Martin: I think the future of open source and something everyone’s been talking about and kind of very much what open teams are about is what is the sustainability model for source right. I think open source also to go back a little bit to the previous question is open source previously I think was seen as oh says hackers and people in your flip flops hoodies in the garage right doing this as their side project, now open sources mainstream in terms of the most open source is being developed by corporate developers to being paid to do it.

But sort of understanding where we go from there and making sure that that sustainability is a thing right that these businesses that are using an interview everyone companies are using open source contribute back not only on code for that but also contribute back to make sure that these smaller open source projects are maintained right.

I think nobody’s worried about the Lennix Carl right. Lennix foundation everybody’s sort of taking care of that with us and that team what if somebody smaller open source projects and I know there’s been work done around the core infrastructure initiatives on to fund these things like Open SSL NTP in some of these smaller projects but there are a lot smaller projects and again.

I think where OpenTeams is doing some great work is understanding that you know they’re still at it I think Henry and before the park as you and I talked about the long tail of open source right, the long tail of these projects that maybe aren’t the mainstream projects but they’re the core pieces that things like no J. S. and other things rely on, we have to as an industry really do a better job of making sure that that processor or continue to be sustainable.

Henry Badgery:  I couldn’t agree with you more I think that’s something that a lot of companies need to focus on and I think they all focus unit and different perspectives have changed and I even I will we talk with you here the other day, he actually was part of the dockside early on he didn’t believe in open source, he was against it just like everyone else and then he sort of took a step back and said; okay right let’s look at this let’s actually listen to some of the people you know open source, some thought leaders and let’s see what it really is and I think it’s just so exciting to be part of that journey and part of that that growth because it really has not just been an evolution for the world, but a revolution for software.

It’s just this open source ethos I think just touched every aspect of our lives these days. So, that’s a wrap up now but I wanted to leave you into something that is. If you were someone today the company either the executive or just and manager-employee or someone who could really make a change and even if not maybe, they could just be in the lower grade employee but I could still make a change.

What steps would you take to actually drive change so that the company you work at it actually takes becomes a bit more open source friendly?

Making Your Company More Open Source Friendly

Guy Martin: I mean, I think education is at the heart of that right. I mean understanding looking at other players in your industry who are doing open source and asking why, and talk to them and understanding their journey through open source and why they chose to make that decision that’s been you know having built a consulting offering again at RedHat, I think that’s one of the things that we did pretty consistently early on as we come in organizations that maybe weren’t hostile open source but they were maybe a bit ambivalent they weren’t sure what they wanted to do and we bring case studies and say; hey your XYZ company in your sector is doing open source and here’s the benefit there seeing.

And I think that is kind of you generally don’t have to convince engineers anymore what we’re to a point I think generationally where engineers are coming out of school going; oh yeah source accepts right I mean but some of the some of our more how to put this gently as a middle-age white person intact well some of our more seasons executives still maybe if especially, if they’re in sort of ancillary industries that haven’t really been in technology and now we’re kind of in technology just by the nature of the sort of how we are as a society.

They sort of having to be convinced around what the business value is and so being able to bring these in these case studies and or point people if you’re somebody in an organization who isn’t as open source friendly and bring data right bring examples of why this is valuable and sort of why we all the open source world continues to push this and it’s continuing to grow.

So, I think again, every time I’ve had a conversation with a business leader that was questioning why open source so I don’t have very many of those conversations anymore, recently but and I think whether it’s funny they said it was in the dark side just kills now like one of the biggest champions open source. But

Henry Badgery: They’re going to have the great king hat after him at the open source program office.

Guy Martin: They do have a king hat and this I notice I brought him a beret back from France that’s from the one explanation you have braces right where’s my break periodically but sorry, getting back to I think that yeah just making sure that that you as someone who’s an organization can point out that you know there’s value in open source and here’s why there’s value and other people in the industry are doing it here the values.


Henry Badgery: Okay that’s great I think that’s it I’m an amazing way to end the episode. Thank you so much for both your insights to that Guy, it’s been an absolute pleasure talking with you. Thank you very much for your time.

Guy Martin: Thank you, Henry and Eunice, I appreciate it and had a great time. 

Henry Badgery: To those of you listening, if you liked what you listened to today then please like the video and subscribe on OpenTeams’ YouTube channel, and if you’re listening to the podcast then please leave a review and let us know what you think.

Stay safe everyone. Until next time, thanks for listening.

Avatar image of Henry Badgery
Written by

Henry Badgery

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *