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Case study: VMware

State of Open: The UK in 2021

Phase Two: “UK Adoption”

Dawn Foster, Director of Open Source Community Strategy


VMware, a California-based enterprise software innovator, is dedicated to open source contributions, evident in their support for technologies like Kubernetes and the Linux Kernel. The Open Source Program Office (OSPO), established in 2016, ensures consistent and compliant use of Open Source. With a team of around a dozen, OSPO guides VMware’s business units with clear global project guidelines, fostering innovation, scalability, and security. The OSPO’s role spans community strategy, engineering, and compliance, aiming to accelerate software development and ensure compliance obligations are met. It emphasises mentoring and support for successful Open Source engagement across the organisation.

8.2 VMware: Aligning Internal and External Best Practices

In conversation with Dawn Foster, Director of Open Source Community Strategy

VMware, headquartered in California, is a leading innovator in enterprise software that powers the world’s digital infrastructure. VMware actively contributes to open source communities across a wide spectrum of technologies. From Kubernetes to the Linux Kernel, these contributions are evidence of their expanding commitment to open source. In 2016 the Open Source Program Offce (OSPO) was formed to further consistent, compliant use of and contributions to open source software.

The need behind an OSPO

Open source is a key part of VMware’s business and innovation strategy. As Dawn says, “open source allows us to build better products and have software that’s more innovative, more interoperable, scalable, and secure.” Currently they maintain hundreds of open source projects and contribute to many more. With this level of usage, they needed to create a focal point that was responsible for creating, managing and maintaining the processes and best practices for seamless open source projects.

VMware’s OSPO in action

Made up of a few dozen people, VMware’s OSPO supports business units through creating clear guidelines around their global projects. As Dawn says, “we have created a Best Practices Guide, which is designed to help anyone at VMware start, run and contribute to an open source project. This is part of how we scale this very small team to provide information about our policies and best practices to employees across the company.” OSPO’s role in VMware involves enabling effcient and effective engagement in and contributions to open

 source communities to accelerate software development while also enabling product teams to meet compliance obligations.

The Make-up of an OSPO

OSPO’s typically address both the internal management of open source software and the outward facing communications. For VMware, this is organised into three areas: community strategy, engineering and compliance.

Community strategy supports open source community engagement and the overall project health of VMware’s open source project contributions, both with regard to their own and external third party projects. Dawn explains that the focus is really “on mentoring and helping other teams get the resources they need to be successful on their own.”

The Open Source Technology Center is the engineering arm – this team mentors internal groups to increase VMware’s open source competency and expertise, and they lead much of the development of the best practices guide.

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