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Rackspace’s Policy On Contributing To Open Source


One of the things that we value at Rackspace is being “open,” which means that we prioritize sharing and collaborating over self-focused work. Being open creates value by aligning us with those whom we serve. It brings us all into closer and more productive partnership with each other, and enables us to deliver the Fanatical Support that is our trademark.

We also believe that being open empowers users, customers and Rackers to freely access the marketplace of ideas and build on the innovations of others. That drives business opportunities for Rackspace and builds leadership and expertise in our Rackers. It also forces us to focus on the services that we deliver better than anyone else.

One way that we want to encourage sharing and collaboration is by contributing to open source projects and building open communities. And today, we want to make it even easier. We’re changing Rackspace policy so that Rackers are free to contribute to and participate in any public open source project of their choice that has an established open source license.

Previously, our policy was that they had to check with our IP Committee/legal department prior to contributing. In evaluating the last three years, we’ve found no cases where Rackers came to us with unreasonable requests. All exercised good judgment.

This is part of our principled effort to be open, not only in our technologies, but in our philosophies – open in all that we do. Our value as a company is in being the best business partner we can be in the industry and contributing to open source communities is a major component of that.

We have Rackers who are armed with the talent to elevate open source projects. We value their creativity and we want to encourage them to build and showcase their expertise and specialties. These skills, to us, are more important than the IP in, say, a particular patch.

We’re removing the barrier to collaboration and sharing. They can contribute code, patches, tests, docs – you name it; we encourage it.

Now, there are a couple of nuances to this new policy:

  1. Rackers are encouraged to contribute on their own time, and if they wish to contribute during work hours they must obtain approval from their manager.
  2. If a Racker would like to contribute to a project that is directly competitive with Rackspace, we’d like to understand why before they contribute.

Otherwise, Rackers should feel free to contribute and participate in any open source project they’d like. We’re confident that Rackers will continue to leverage the good judgment they have in the past as they share their creativity and hone their skills.

We want to allow Rackers to participate and collaborate beyond the walls of Rackspace. There is no “us and them;” there is one community that we at Rackspace are proud to be a part of.

About the Author

This is a post written and contributed by Van Lindberg.

Van Lindberg is Vice President of Intellectual Property at Rackspace. He is trained as a computer engineer and lawyer, but what he does best is “translate” to help businesses, techies and attorneys understand each other.

Van likes working with both computer code and legal code. For the past several years, he has been using natural language processing and graph theory to help him digest and map the U.S. Patent Database.

Before becoming a lawyer, Van was a research and development engineer at NTT/Verio, where he built automation tools and distributed systems using mostly Python. He was also an IT administrator for the Harold B. Lee College of Education at his alma mater, Brigham Young University. Van has been involved with open source since 1994, when a friend introduced him to Linux.

In April 2012, the American Bar Association Journal named Van one of “America’s Top 12 Techiest Attorneys.” He is currently chairman of the board of the Python Software Foundation, as well as the author of “Intellectual Property and Open Source.”

  • Jeff Schneider

    I congratulate you on publishing the policy. Can I suggest you go one step further? As you know, many of the offerings in Rackspace are not open sourced, open standards or open API. Perhaps you dedicate a web page to showing what is open and what is closed. Rackspace has embraced the tag line, “The Open Company” and has the opportunity to set the bar for what ‘open’ really means. In my opinion, Rackspace is early on the journey that your motto describes. Keeping and publishing a scorecard is a great reminder for the journey ahead.

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  • Chris Fordham

    Kudos here, it is a very sensible move; simple and effective policy. By the end of this year I think we’ll see even more nifty open source projects at our fingertips.

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