How VMware Manages Open Source Code and Compliance

VMware is an active member of the open-source community, contributing its efforts to multiple projects and organizations. Helping to organize and lead VMware's open-source initiatives is the company's chief open source officer, Dirk Hohndel.

In a video interview with eWEEK, Hohndel explains where open-source technologies are being used by VMware and how the company contributes to development efforts. Hohndel joined VMware in 2016, after spending 15 years as the chief Linux and open source technologist at Intel.

"I have a team of engineers that work primarily on upstream open-source projects, and I have a team of program managers dealing with open-source compliance work," he said. "It's the typical role of an open-source program office, except at VMware this is an exec role. I'm a vice president, reporting to the CTO, which I think reflects the value we put on open source as part of the industry in which we play."

Open source at VMware has multiple aspects, including code contributions, software projects and code used within VMware's commercial products. Open-source licenses often include compliance requirements that organizations like VMware need to track. For example, VMware's vSphere virtualization platform includes open-source components, with license compliance and reviews conducted by Hohndel's team.

"On the engineering side, we have open-source teams in pretty much every business unit that are working with open-source components and contributing to projects," he said. 

VMware also has internal tooling that tracks all the components of every release for all VMware products. While some of the tracking is automated, Hohndel said there is still a large manual component as well. He added that his team is working on helping to automate more of the license compliance and code tracking elements of VMware's product efforts.

"We spend a lot of time on ensuring that for each component that we use, we have all the right license text and source availability," he said. "It's a fairly involved process."

While open-source software in some circles is a well-understood concept, Hohndel cautioned that there are still many developers who are not familiar with open-source development. As such, VMware has done a lot of work training developers on license compliance and how to engage with open-source projects.

Open-Source Project Success

Measuring the success of VMware's open-source project efforts is not an easy process. According to Hohndel, simply tracking the popularity for a given GitHub project repository is not a good indicator either.

"It is the interactivity that I really care about because open source on the one hand is really a way for knowledge sharing," he said. "But it's also a way to create community, interaction and collaboration."

Watch the full video interview with Dirk Hohndel above.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.