Paying it forward through open source
It’s hard to imagine building software nowadays without leveraging some form of open source software. From operating systems to databases to web servers, open source software forms the backbone for the overwhelming majority of the systems that power the internet and the cloud. One of the things that makes the Open Source Software movement so unique is its altruistic nature. There are tens of thousands of active open source projects that are solving real problems and are allowing businesses to innovate and grow and in Medidata’s case to save lives and improve quality of life.
There is a loose contract within the open source community that thankfully more and more businesses are starting to embrace. The contract states that companies and individuals should give back to the open source community in any way that they can. One of the best ways to give back or pay it forward is for companies to make some of their own internally developed software open source and one of the best examples of a company doing this is the content streaming service Netflix. Netflix has benefited greatly from various open source projects which has made it possible for them to run almost all of their business efficiently and elastically in the cloud.
Netflix was also one of the early adopters of moving to the public cloud and as Netflix’s Ruslan Meshenberg has stated they paid the early ‘pioneer tax’ of running large amounts of infrastructure on a public cloud. They have made extensive use of open source projects such as Cassandra, Zookeeper and Hadoop and have built administrative applications to manage those systems in the form of Priam and Exhibitor to name just a few. Netflix has also created a standalone application for managing Amazon Web Services cloud costs call Ice which we have adopted internally. This all adds up to a business that has been significantly impacted and helped by open source software and has built on top of that software to extend its functionality and reach their business goals. To their credit Netflix in 2011 announced an open source initiative called NetflixOSS (http://netflix.github.io) which to this date has made available 34 significant open source projects with many of them providing critical systems capabilities. This is an inspiring gesture by Netflix and one that has not gone unnoticed at Medidata.
The core of Medidata’s Clinical Cloud is also based on principles of high availability and building our products on top of highly resilient services so it’s natural that we have been influenced by Netflix and have taken advantage of many of their open sourced projects such as Priam, Exhibitor, Edda and Ice. More importantly, engineering at Medidata is committed to paying it forward once again by encouraging engineers to contribute to open source projects as well as starting an initiative to open source more of our internal software and tools. We found Netflix’s Ice so useful internally that we open sourced a Chef cookbook that we use internally to deploy Ice (https://github.com/mdsol/ice_cookbook). We believe contributing to open source is good for Medidata, good for our engineers, good for other life sciences companies and good for the greater technical community and in the end we hope by continuing to embrace and foster open source within Medidata that we can further our mission of making Medidata the best place to work in life sciences.