By using pre-existing open source projects as a base on which to build their own customized products—a practice called external R&D—companies are saving on development costs and getting their products to market faster. Even greater benefits are possible if a company can strategically align its development with upcoming open source projects, or influence the direction of a project to serve its own goals. To gain these powerful competitive advantages, companies must influence and learn directly from the open source maintainers and developers who are steering the projects being used to create their commercial products and services.
As the nonprofit consortium behind Linux, the largest open source project in the history of computing, The Linux Foundation has a deep knowledge of the open source development process, its culture and business applications. Founded in 2000, The Linux Foundation supports its member companies through every step of open source involvement, helping them to navigate the world of open source communities, and enabling them to begin using open source software, contribute code to the projects, influence their technical direction, and finally to initiate their own projects. This paper will give companies practical tips on how to connect with open source projects, identify key contributors, build a strong open source reputation, and ultimately expand their reach and influence within the open source community.