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Open Source

Best of Makers: Hello, GitOps — Boeing’s Open Source Push

Take flight on Boeing's open source journey with Damani Corbin, the architect behind Boeing's Open Source office. Learn how they foster collaboration, contribute to projects, and prioritize code reuse for a secure, community-driven approach.
Feb 15th, 2024 7:21am by
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This edition of The New Stack’s video podcast series, Makers, first published in December. For more on how enterprises are creating open source program offices, check out this recent TNS article on how American Express started an OSPO. 

Boeing has 6,000 or so engineers. But that doesn’t mean just 6,000 people are downloading open source software. The number of people is far more, working on cloud native projects such as Open Telemetry and adopting GitOps as a core practice.

“So from an open source perspective, I go around the organization, having conversations and ensuring that we just talk to each other internally,” said Boeing’s Damani Corbin in this episode of The New Stack Makers. Corbin, who works in global software strategy, launched Boeing’s open source program office (OSPO).

Boeing is doing three main themes with open source, Corbin said.

“Number one, how do we make it easier for our developers to consume open source software?” he said. Number two, how do I make it easier for my developers to contribute back to open source projects and participate in the open source communities like the Cloud Native Computing Foundation and the Linux Foundation?

“And then number three is how do I identify opportunities for inner sourcing, such that we can share some of the best things that are happening internally with different groups?”

A priority? Reuse code across the organization in a manner that encourages participation in open source programs.

“So the nature of our business is that we would bring things in, and then fork,” Corbin said. “But what we would do now is like, ‘Hey, how can we cut down those barriers in that we separate the pieces that are business critical.'”

And we separate the pieces that we can now contribute back because security is important to the entire community,” Corbin said. “We have a higher sensitivity to security, but we don’t need to just marry that for our products. The security that we’re building into open source, we’re trying to share that more with the community.”

Open source is familiar inside Boeing, Corbin said. However, there has yet to be a central source of control regarding how this will impact the broader organization. They are now pulling the office together with the help of the legal department and information security — all the teams with some role in open source to provide an open source strategy for the overall Boeing organization.

How does Boeing collaborate? Corbin said one way is to work with the CNCF and LF projects. Engineers can work on projects that meet business requirements but also might be “a resume-driven development type of project, if you will,” Corbin said.

For example, take git, Corbin said. Teams at Boeing started adopting GitOps three years ago. Specific teams have different business requirements, which may change the adoption level.

“However, my goal is to lower the barrier to entry, such that it’s a no-brainer for you to walk into this new place because it’s easy, it’s comfortable, and we’re providing it for you,” Corbin said.

The next level is to encourage people to give back to the community. Showing up at the meetings is the first part, trying to understand the issues and how the community operates.

Boeing takes a staggered approach to participation in open source communities. They want to show that a large organization like Boeing can contribute significantly and not just give lip service.

“We want to get to a stage where we can pay software engineers to work on open source projects. We’re not there today. We would like to move in that direction. And that’s what we’re pushing for internally.”

Corbin said he could not do his work without Ricardo Torres, the original force behind the Boeing OSPO. Torres now works at Prove, an identity management company.

“I want to ensure that Ricardo gets the recognition for all of his efforts,” Corbin said. “Ricardo recruited me to Boeing and allowed me to join the team on the launch of the OSPO. He is the trailblazer and the visionary for the work we do. There would not be an OSPO without Ricardo, and we wouldn’t be as successful as we have been without his leadership.”

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