Software development has traditionally been undertaken by specific teams within an organisation, who ‘own’ their application and therefore any associated lines of code. Any change to that code is undertaken by that team and is usually related very closely to that application’s core function. However, in a world where interoperability breeds innovation and complex systems are the new normal, it is fundamental that new ideas and innovations come from a wider community.
The Open Source world embraces this principle. By opening source code to the wider developer community, ideas can be worked on by individual developers all over the world who then ‘give back’ their innovations to the global Open Source community. This means innovation is faster and there is a high level of scrutiny of the code from the developer community.
Inner Source takes the best practices of the Open Source world and applies them internally within a company, without the risk associated with fully opening source code to the wider world. This philosophy provides greater flexibility to a company’s developers, allowing them to move more quickly and to have greater variety in their day-to-day roles. New versions of software can be released quickly, often with a higher number of ‘eyeballs’ scrutinising each line of code to ensure quality.
We are increasingly practising Inner Source in our development operations, which means that source code is available to all Amadeus developers to review and ideas can come from anyone. This means that if an application team needs a change in middleware, they are free to examine and then build on that middleware code to meet their needs. We’ve seen a huge increase in agility and innovation as a result.
With the Inner Source model you can be either a contributor or a maintainer, so the core responsibility for your application or library still sits with you but you might spend more time reviewing suggestions from others rather than building everything yourself.” This thorough governance model, which is also common to the Open Source world, involves a core development team that assumes overall responsibility for direction without being constrained by a command and control model.
Inner Source is a philosophy in use at several of the world’s most successful technology companies. The model has been credited with an ability to rapidly test and prototype new innovations and then for the Inner Source community to validate, test, improve and collaborate to evolve the code. In the travel industry Amadeus is a pioneer of this approach, although some interest is also being shown by larger airlines that maintain development operations.