Why We Chose Open Source

Chief Corvus Officer
February 9, 2020

Note: We will making the core discovery capabilities & graph available on Github this Spring (rather than now) in order to make sure it's easy to use and contribute

When Dave and I dreamt up Open Raven, I had five personal stipulations:

  • We must build something innovative
  • We must build something meaningful and important
  • It must be a fun place to work
  • It must make money
  • It must be based on an open source business model

Open source isn’t just a part of what we do at Open Raven, it’s core to who we are as a company — something so important that early on it became half of the company’s name.

Still, there are many flavors and variants of open source as a business model, not all of which are well understood. Mutter the phrase open source in a room of technical folks and you will almost always provoke a response. Some people may wax lyrically about their favorite project while others may complain about an open source project they’ve used that is no longer being maintained.

Without fail, however, everyone will agree that open source has changed the world and fuels software innovation.

Yet fueling innovation is just one facet of our choice to embrace open source. At Open Raven, there’s a long list of reasons we made this choice. Topping that list are:

Culture -- Open source attracts people with common values and related skills who join together working towards a shared goal to create the best software possible, typically without the guarantee of anything in return. This tends to create a culture of comradery as contributors spend time working on things they have chosen to work on and believe in, and with people they have chosen to work with.

Transparency and Accountability -- Despite the trend of many startups lauding their large venture rounds across their homepages in hopes of establishing confidence in their stability, the reality is that it is hard for a large established company to place a meaningful bet on any early-stage company or technology. Being in control of the codebase allows large, established companies to place an early bet on a promising young company with game-changing technology without the fear of losing their time and financial investment should that company fail.

Morality -- Open Raven could not be built if it wasn't for open source, so it’s only fair that we return our platform to the community from which it came. Not only will this allow others to extend it, but we are open sourcing many utilities we have built that others may find useful. We have and will continue to have a moral obligation to submit bug fixes and improvements to core technology we use. It’s the right thing to do. This is the categorical imperative.

Indirect Economics -- The open source model has seen the rise of successful software companies like RedHat, MySQL, MuleSoft, Cloudera, Elastic, Gitlab, Kafka and KongHQ to name but a few. While there are few open source companies to reference in the security realm, we see no valid reasons why this is the case. In fact, being able to audit the code and understand how security is implemented should be a distinct advantage for security products. Furthermore, the indirect effects of open source, such as recruiting, brand recognition and community goodwill, pay dividends.

If you’re looking for more detail or if you still aren’t sold on the open source model for Open Raven, I’d encourage you to read our white paper which lays out the argument in more detail, along with a more comprehensive explanation of our approach to open source. And if you do plan to contribute, we look forward to working with you. We’ll see you on GitHub in the Spring.

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