Commercial Companies Built on Top of an Open-Source World | Hacker Noon

June 9th 2020

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@raju96bloggerRaju Shahi

Raju Shahi is a tech blogger and digital marketer with several years of experience in the industry.

Independent developers are still an essential part of the open-source community.

Today, most of the work on open-source projects is done by corporate developers.

In his recent speech at the Open-Source Summit, Linux founder Linus Torvalds acknowledged this corporate influence and welcomed it. “It’s imperative to have open-source companies,” he said. “This is one thing that I was pleased about.”

This list highlights some of the leading commercial companies that use, sponsor, and contribute to open-source projects. It includes a mixture of large businesses, small start-ups, and everything in between. 

Some of the companies offer only open-source products, while others sell a mixture of open-source and proprietary solutions. However, all of these companies play a significant role in the open-source software development community.

Adobe

Location of Headquarters: San Jose, California.

Number of employees: More than 15,000

Publicly trading as ADBE (NASDAQ)

Annual Revenue: $5.854 billion

Reason For Making The List

Adobe is committed to open-source and has over 250 public repositories on its GitHub site. Some of its best known open source projects are developer tools such as the PhoneGap web development framework, Topcoat CSS library, and the Brackets text editor. 

Adobe employees also regularly participate in other open-source projects, such as Gecko, Blink, WebKit, Apache Cordova, Flex, Felix, and many others.

Automattic

Location of Headquarters: San Francisco, California.

Number of employees: 564

Publicly Traded: No

Annual Revenue: Not available

Reason For Making The List

You may not have heard of Automattic before, but you have almost certainly heard of its most famous creation – WordPress. 

According to the site, WordPress now “owns 28 percent of the Internet”. Even though the Foundation currently manages the open-source WordPress project, Automattic continues to contribute to its code and runs WordPress.com. 

It also participates in many other open-source projects such as WooCommerce and BuddyPress.

Black Duck Software

Location of Headquarters: Burlington, Massachusetts.

Number of Employees: More than 320

Publicly Traded: No

Annual Revenue: Not available

Reason For Making The List

Unlike most other companies on this list, Black Duck Software is noteworthy for its contribution to open source projects, but also for making it easier for other organizations to use open-source software. It boasts over 2,000 customers, including Intel, Nintendo, SAP, and Samsung.

It offers three main projects: 

  • Hub for identifying and managing open-source software when used in the environment
  • Protex for ensuring compliance with open-source licenses and company policies 
  • Security Checker for identifying security vulnerabilities in open-source software. 

Canonical

Location of Headquarters: London, UK

Number of employees: About 550

Trading publicly: No

Average Annual Revenue: around $103.3 million

Reason For Making The List

It is the company behind Ubuntu, one of the most popular Linux distributions on the planet. Canonical claims that Ubuntu is “the most popular operating system among the public and OpenStack clouds.” 

Their mission is to make open-source software available to people from all over the world. They believe that the best way to fuel innovation is to give innovators the technology they need.

Chef

Location of Headquarters: Seattle, Washington.

Number of Employees: Less than 500

Publicly Traded: No

Annual Revenue: Not available

Reason For Making The List 

Chef is the name of both the open-source system integration system and the company that owns the system. As DevOps became more widespread, Chef became one of the most popular tools for automating configuration management. 

CloudBees

Location of Headquarters: San Jose, California.

Number of Employees: Less than 500

Publicly Traded: No

Annual Revenue: Not available

Reason For Making The List

Another favorite among the DevOps team, CloudBees is the company behind Jenkins, which was ranked 14th in the list of popular open-source projects by TechCrunch. 

Jenkins is an open-source automation server, which means it helps accelerate software development by automating processes such as documentation, testing, deployment, and more. 

The company says Jenkins is “the world’s most popular open-source automation server, with hundreds of thousands of active installations worldwide,” and Jenkins employees have written 80 percent of Jenkin’s core code.

Cloudera

Location of Headquarters: Palo Alto, CA

Number of Employees: Approx. 1,600

Publicly Traded: CLDR (NYSE)

Annual Revenue: $166.05 million

Reason For Making The List

Cloudera offers one of the most popular supported versions of Hadoop, becoming increasingly crucial as higher data volume rises. 

Doug Cutting, the company’s chief architect, founded Hadoop, says that they have contributed more code to the Hadoop ecosystem than anybody. 

It has started more than 20 projects related to Hadoop and is very active in Apache Foundation projects.

Confluent

Location of Headquarters: Palo Alto, California.

Number of Employees: Less than 200

Publicly Traded: No

Annual Revenue: Not available

Reason For Making The List

Confluent is a major player in the big data space and is the company behind Apache Kafka, which was ranked 20th among the most popular open-source projects. 

It describes Kafka as “a distributed streaming platform capable of handling trillions of events per day.” 

It was initially created at LinkedIn and released under an open-source license in 2011. 

The team behind this project founded Confluent as an independent company, and today it offers a commercially supported version of the software.

Databricks

Location of Headquarters: San Francisco.

Number of Employees: Less than 200 

Publicly Traded: No

Annual Revenue: Not available

Reason For Making The List

Databricks is a company that supports another very successful large data streaming project – Apache Spark. 

The developers who founded the project launched Databricks in 2013 to offer commercial support. 

According to Databricks, Spark has the most significant open-source community in the field of large data, with more than 1000 participants from more than 250 organizations. Known Databricks clients include NBCUniversal, HP, Shell, Cisco, 3M, and many others.

DataStax

Location of Headquarters: Santa Clara, California.

Number of Employees: More than 400

Publicly Traded: No

Annual Revenue: Not available

Reason For Making The List

It offers a commercially-supported version of the Apache Cassandra NoSQL database and a managed cloud solution based on Cassandra. 

DataStax qualifies for more than 500 customers in more than 50 countries worldwide. Well-known companies using its products include Netflix, Safeway, Adobe, Intuit, and eBay.

Docker

Location of Headquarters: San Francisco.

Number of Employees: More than 120 

Publicly Traded: No

Annual Revenue: Not available

Reason For Making The List

Docker’s technology has evolved into one of the most popular open-source projects for enterprise users. It has over 32,000 stars on GitHub and has been downloaded over 8 billion times. 

The company behind this technology, called Docker, was ranked third in the list of companies that contributed most to GitHub in 2016. Their software is very popular with companies using agile, and DevOps approaches. 

On average, companies using Docker have a 7-fold improvement in how often they can deliver the software.

Elastic

Location of Headquarters: Mountain View, California.

Number of Employees: More than 500

Publicly Traded: No

Annual Revenue: Not available

Reason For Making The List

Best known for Elasticsearch’s open-source project, Elastic offers a complete stack of developed products that can securely and reliably take data from any source, in any format, and search, analyze and visualize it in real-time.

Elasticsearch is ranked seventh in the index of popular open-source projects, and GitHub has 25,254 stars. 

Elastic also has several other open-source projects, including Kibana, Beats, and Logstash.

Facebook

Location of Headquarters: Menlo Park, California.

Number of Employees: More than 20,000

Publicly Traded: F.B. (NASDAQ)

Annual Revenue: $27.638 billion

Reason For Making The List 

The leading social network has also become one of the leading supporters of open-source software and hardware. 

In 2016, Facebook was ranked second in the list of companies with the largest number of GitHub members (15,682). 

The most popular open-source projects are React and React-native JavaScript, Flow, HHVM, Relay, and many others.

Fastly

Location of Headquarters: San Francisco.

Number of Employees: More than 500

Publicly Traded: FSLY (NYSE)

Annual Revenue: $285.1 million

Reason For Making The List

Fastly is an American cloud computing service provider. The Fastly cloud platform provides content delivery networks, Internet security, load balancing, and video and streaming services. 
The company would not exist without Varnish. They could have created their own patented version of Varnish, but they mostly rely on Varnish as the leading software ingredient of their product and business.

GitHub

Location of Headquarters: San Francisco.

Number of Employees: 672

Publicly Traded: No

Annual Revenue: Not available

Reason For Making The List

GitHub would not exist without Git. Yes, they may not contribute to Git as much as some other companies (Google and others), and yes, their product may be mostly closed, but they rely primarily on Git, the OSS project.

It has become the de facto repository for open source projects. The 2016 report boasts over 5.8 million active users, over 331,000 active organizations, and over 19.4 million active repositories. 

The company has also created several open-source projects, including the text editor Atom, Hubot, and Git Large File Storage (LFS).

Google

Location of Headquarters: Menlo Park, California.

Number of Employees: More than 57,000

Publicly Traded: GOOGL and GOOG (NASDAQ)

Annual Revenue: $89.5 Billion

Reason For Making The List

With over 2,000 open-source projects released or contributed to, it is one of the most fervent corporate users and open-source supporters. 

It was rated fifth on the list of companies with the most GitHub members in 2016 (Google also owns Angular, which was fourth on the list). 
Google has well-known open-source projects, which include Android, Chromium, Dart, Go, Kubernetes, TensorFlow, and many others.

Gradle

Location of Headquarters: San Francisco.

Number of Employees: Less than 50

Publicly Traded: No

Annual Revenue: Not available

Reason For Making The List

Gradle is the name of the tool for building open-source DevOps and the company that serves it. 

It has been listed by TechCrunch as number 17 among the best open-source projects and has over 4 million downloads per month. 

Its users include many companies on the list, such as LinkedIn, Android, Netflix, Adobe, and Elastic.

Hashicorp

Location of Headquarters: San Francisco.

Number of Employees: Less than 250 (est.)

Publicly Traded: No

Annual Revenue: Not available

Reason For Making The List

Another DevOps tool provider, Hashicorp, has created several open-source projects, where most of them are related to cloud infrastructure automation. 

The most widely known of its projects is the Vagrant configuration tool, which ranked 15th among existing open-source projects. 

Its other open-source projects include Packer, Terraform, Vault, Consul, and Nomad.

Hortonworks

Location of Headquarters: Santa Clara, California.

Number of Employees: About 1,110 

Publicly Traded: HDP (NASDAQ)

Annual Revenue: $184.5 million

Reason For Making The List

Like Cloudera, Hortonworks offers a viral distribution of Hadoop, which ranked 6th among the best open-source projects and is almost synonymous with big data. They say that they believe in a 100% open-source approach to everything. 

We completely reject the notion that vendors only succeed with lock-in and proprietary technologies. We believe that open-source software can stimulate innovation.

Huawei

Location of Headquarters: Shenzhen, Guangdong, China

Number of Employees: About 180,000

Publicly Traded: No

Annual Revenue: $75.103 billion

Reason For Making The List

This Chinese technology firm may not be the first one most people think about when it comes to open-source development. Still, it has significantly contributed to the development of Linux. 

In the 2017 Linux Foundation report on kernel development, Huawei was ranked 25th among companies making operating system changes, and 4th among companies most actively engaging new developers in the community.

IBM

Location of Headquarters: Armonk, N.Y.

Number of Employees: About 380,000

Publicly Traded: IBM (NYSE)

Annual Revenue: $ 79.919 billion

Reason For Making The List

IBM was the eighth top Linux Foundation kernel developer and has a strong history of supporting open-source. 

They have recently released their WebSphere Liberty project under the Eclipse Public License and have also created or participated in many other open-source projects. For example, LoopBack, OpenWhisk, Project Intu, and others. 

IBM is also a member and sponsor of many leading open-source foundations, including The Linux Foundation, Eclipse Foundation, Apache Software Foundation, OpenStack Foundation, and many others.

Intel

Location of Headquarters: Santa Clara, California.

Number of Employees: About 106,000

Publicly Traded: INTC (NASDAQ)

Annual Revenue: $59.38 billion

Reason For Making The List

In 2016, Intel was reported to be the most active company involved in the development of the Linux kernel. Intel employees made 14,384 changes to the code, representing about 12.9 percent of the changes in the period covered by the report. 

Its developers also contribute to dozens of other open-source projects. It is a member and sponsor of several open-source foundations, including the Linux Foundation, the Eclipse Foundation, and the OpenStack Foundation.

LinkedIn

Location of Headquarters: Mountain View, California.

Number of Employees: 9,732

Publicly Traded: Owned by Microsoft

Annual Revenue: $3 Billion 

Reason For Making The List

This social network has a rich history of both using and creating open-source software. According to the LinkedIn website, its engineers have created more than 75 open source projects, including several projects related to Hadoop currently managed by the Apache Software Foundation. 

The company says, “We believe that open-source projects make our engineers better at what they do best. Engineers grow in their craft, sharing their work with the entire community.”

Microsoft

Location of Headquarters: Redmond, Washington.

Number of Employees: About 114,000

Publicly Traded: MSFT (NASDAQ)

Annual Revenue: $85.32 billion

Reason For Making The List

Two decades ago, Microsoft would have been one of the first opponents of open-source software, but it has completely changed course. 

In the last few years, Microsoft had more employees contributing to GitHub projects than any other company. Today, it has partnerships with other leading open-source companies, including Red Hat.

It also has open-source code for some of its most popular programs, including .NET development tools, Visual Studio Code, PowerShell Core, CNTK, Redis, TypeScript, and others. Microsoft also supports Linux on its cloud computing service and takes a cross-platform approach to development.

MongoDB

Location of Headquarters: New York City

Number of Employees: More than 800

Publicly Traded: No

Annual Revenue: Not available

Reason For Making The List

It is one of the most popular NoSQL databases and was ninth in the list of influential open-source projects. 

MongoDB’s interest has grown as the trend towards more data grows, and to date, the software has been downloaded over 20 million times. 

Well-known users of MongoDB include Amazon, Adobe, Cisco, GitHub, Comcast, eHarmony, Twitter, and The New York Times.

Netflix

Location of Headquarters: Los Gatos, California.

Number of Employees: About 3,500

Publicly Traded: NFLX (NASDAQ)

Annual Revenue: $8.83 billion

Reason For Making The List

Netflix, a streaming video service, was actively involved in open-source and open-source projects, as well as in the search for tools developed in-house. 

Among its projects are Lipstick, Genie, Inviso, Nebula, Aminator, Spinnaker, Eureka, Aegisthus, Ribbon, Archaius, Hystrix, Governator, Fenzo, Photo, Karyon, Dynomite, Atlas, Chaos Monkey, and others.

Nginx

Location of Headquarters: San Francisco.

Number of Employees: Less than 250 

Publicly Traded: No

Annual Revenue: Not available

Reason For Making The List

Nginx is an open-source web server occupying the 18th place in the list of essential open-source projects. According to the site, it serves half the busiest sites and applications in the world.

The company offers a supported version of open-source software and claims to be a customer of Disney, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, U.S. Bank, Major League Baseball, WordPress, and Verizon.

Npm

Location of Headquarters: Oakland, California

Number of Employees: Less than 50 

Publicly Traded: No

Annual Revenue: Not available

Reason For Making The List

In 11th place on the list of influential open-source projects, Npm calls itself “the world’s largest software registry and the package manager for JavaScript.” It is very popular with users of Node.js. 

Oracle

Location of Headquarters: Santa Clara, California.

Number of Employees: More than 136,000

Publicly Traded: ORCL (NYSE)

Annual Revenue: $37.04 billion

Reason For Making The List

By acquiring Sun Microsystems, Oracle inherited some of the world’s most popular open-source technologies, including Java, MySQL database, OpenOffice’s office productivity platform, and Hudson’s continuous integration tool. 

Oracle has sometimes been criticized for working with these open-source projects. It has passed some of them on to non-profit foundations. 

However, it supports open-source development and is a supporter of the Linux Foundation, the Eclipse Foundation, and the OpenStack Foundation.

Puppet

Location of Headquarters: Portland, Oreon.

Number of Employees: More than 500

Publicly Traded: No

Annual Revenue: Not available

Reason For Making The List

Puppet is an open-source configuration management solution popular with many DevOps commands. Puppet also offers commercial software support. 

Over 36,000 organizations use this software, including the Wikimedia Foundation, Mozilla, Reddit, Twitter, Spotify, PayPal, Intel, Red Hat, Uber, NASA, and others. 

Besides the flagship Puppet tool, the company is involved in more than 40 other open-source projects that make up the ecosystem.

Red Hat

Location of Headquarters: Raleigh, N.C.

Number of Employees: 10,700

Publicly Traded: RHT (NYSE)

Annual Revenue: $2.4 billion

Reason For Making The List

Red Hat claims to be the world leader in open-source. It is one of the most popular Linux distributions for large organizations. 

It was the second top Linux developer and is a member and sponsor of the Apache Software Foundation and OpenStack Foundation. 

In addition to the Linux distribution, it also manages several other open-source projects, including OpenShift, Gluster, CloudForms, and many others.

Redis Labs

Location of Headquarters: Mountain View, California.

Number of Employees: Less than 100 (est.)

Publicly Traded: No

Annual Revenue: Not available

Reason For Making The List

Redis Labs is the company behind in-memory database software and is ranked 12th on the list of influential open-source projects. 

Redis has also been considered one of the most popular key-value stores according to DB-Engines ranking

Snyk

Location of Headquarters: London, England, United Kingdom

Number of Employees: more than 300 ( grew employee count by 134% last year)

Annual Revenue: $63 million

Reason For Making The List

Snyk company helps businesses to natively build security into their development process. Snyk’s tools and techniques enable developers to find and fix open source issues faster than industry average.

Since its foundation in 2015, the company has been experiencing rapid growth. By now it has enabled more than 400 000 developers to deal with vulnerabilities in the open source world. 

Samsung Electronics

Location of Headquarters: Seoul, South Korea

Number of Employees: More than 308,000

Publicly Traded: 005930 (KRX)

Annual Revenue: Not available

Reason For Making The List

Although the company is known as a manufacturer of devices and electronics, Samsung developers have also made significant contributions to open-source projects. 

Only Intel and Red Hat have contributed more than Samsung to the Linux kernel in the 2016 report of commercial companies. 

The company is also a member or sponsor of the Linux Foundation, the Apache Software Foundation, and the OpenStack Foundation.

Sauce Labs

Location of Headquarters: San Francisco.

The number of employees: Less than 100

Publicly Traded: No

Annual Revenue: Not available

Reason For Making The List

It offers application testing based on two open-source projects – Selenium and Appium. 

Sauce Labs contributes to Appium and Selenium was one of the co-founders of the company. It also offers free testing for open-source projects.

SUSE

Location of Headquarters: Nuremberg, Germany

Number of Employees: About 1,000

Publicly Traded As Parent company Micro Focus is traded as MCRO (LSE) and MFGP (NYSE)

Annual Revenue: $253.8 million

Reason For Making The List

Much like Red Hat, SUSE is best known for its corporate Linux distribution. It is also a major contributor to the Linux kernel and was ranked seventh among companies actively involved in the project. 

It is also involved in many other open-source projects, including Cloud Foundry, OpenStack, Ceph, Open Container Initiative, and others.

Twitter

Location of Headquarters: San Francisco.

The number of employees: About 3,900

Publicly Traded: TWTR (NYSE)

Annual Revenue: $2.52 billion

Reason For Making The List

Twitter claims it is built on open-source software. It has released many of its tools, developed in-house, under open source licenses. There are over 139 public repositories on GitHub.

How Do Open Source Companies Thrive

There are some conventional open-source business models, but there are no universal ones. An open-source company may focus on support, hosting, open-core, restrictive licensing, or hybrid licensing models. 

Some find success in a purely managed offer model, such as Databricks. Others will be so widespread as SQLite (reportedly billions of installations) that they can support a small core team with only support and warranty.

In this case, most open-source companies will earn money using a combination of the five models mentioned above. For example, by combining support and licensing, or support and hosting and open-source.

To Sum Up

If you apply open-source software in your company, there are different ways to support the open source business, as well as to ensure that the software will continue to improve and be supported. 

If you consider open-source software, and if the company is behind the project, simply support it.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of any company, organization and employer.

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