Why Open Source?
What is Open Source Software?
Open source software (OSS or just “open source”) is software whose source code is freely distributed – that is, anyone can use the software for whatever they please. Because OSS tends to be built by a diverse community of developers, working within different organizations and collaborating on common technologies, it also offers a new model for software development. OSS developers are often end users of the software, so they are making improvements informed directly by their work with the code. This contrasts with the typical commercial software development model, where software developers are vendors of a product, not users of it. This distinction is significant: the open source model allows software to adapt both more rapidly and more accurately to user needs, accelerating innovation.
OSS projects typically have a team of core contributors or “maintainers” who manage overall architecture, review changes, and often conduct the primary development on the codebase. This work usually starts at a single organization, and then, as other groups get involved, oversight often moves on to an independent organization (such as an open source foundation or industry consortium). The maintainers continue to be responsible for managing the codebase and the community of external contributors. This is an important mechanism for ensuring quality and consistency.
The advantages of OSS are particularly critical for platforms – the core technologies that integrate hardware and software and create the ecosystems in which application developers work. In recent years, open source has become the dominant means for developing new platform technologies, like Android, Linux, Python, Chrome, and Hadoop.
Why is Camus Energy embracing Open Source Software?
When our founders set out to design the best software for grid management, they realized that they needed to first understand the software challenges facing grid operators (and other load-serving entities). They surveyed these users and found some major obstacles:
- The software systems available to grid operators are typically individually designed and sold by large IT firms. These vendors offer proprietary, not open source solutions, and that proprietary software can take years to develop, customize, and deploy.
- The vendors design their proprietary software to address the grid operators’ needs at the time of the scoping – meaning that as those needs change, the grid operators must go back to the vendor for further support, often at great cost.
- By the time a vendor has completed a software project, the grid operator customer is using obsolete technology while paying license and support fees indefinitely. The software can survive for decades beyond its expected shelf life because of the high costs of starting anew.
Camus Energy will open source the core of our monitoring system, beginning with microgrid support in 2020. An open-source approach benefits our customers and our company. With this approach, we can:
- Develop more, faster – by collaborating with experts both inside and outside the Camus Energy team, which accelerates development processes.
- Drive broad adoption – by making it easy and affordable for grid operators to broadly adopt our technology platform as an interoperable standard on a self-serve basis
- Build an ecosystem – by enabling different companies and research institutions to develop their own solutions for utilities and load serving entities on a common platform
- Improve security through transparency – by allowing third parties to independently validate the software, and by giving a broad array of developers the capability to find and fix bugs faster and more reliably than any single software vendor.
This approach allows the platform to enable innovative analytics and optimization within the distribution ecosystem, improving situational awareness and orchestration of grid edge assets.
What are some well-known open source projects?
Linux is probably the best-known and most widely-used open source project, and has been active for decades. Other well-established projects include Firefox, an OSS project at Mozilla; Chrome and Android at Google; and Hadoop at Cloudera and many other companies. More recently, several other large corporations have begun offering OSS solutions; for example, Hygeia at Capital One Bank, and Quorum at JPMorgan Chase. Walmart, Goldman Sachs, WordPress and Cypress Test Runner also participate in large open source projects.
IBM’s Red Hat is the most commonly cited firm that promotes open source software. Its Linux-based software is free, but the company charges enterprise users for technical support services. Red Hat also sells subscriptions to its premium distributions. Finally, the company sells enterprise software certifications, which allow employers to find highly skilled IT professionals who have been certified by Red Hat and have demonstrated proficiency with the software tools. The collaborative efforts around Linux at Red Hat have created a virtuous cycle benefiting the company, the user community, and customers alike.
Open source is a modern approach for software development that benefits vendors, customers, and the development community at large. Across industries, the open source model is now mainstream. This model is the primary way in which smart companies big and small have embraced software development. Cooperating is not a zero sum game: by working together, contributors receive higher returns than their individual investments.
Who can contribute to open source projects?
At Camus, we think it’s important to develop an ecosystem of contributors who can ensure that a shared platform feeds into an ecosystem that supports the needs of a variety of participants. These include:
- Grid operators. Utilities have specific needs and perspectives which aren’t always present in the proprietary platforms designed by vendors. Using an open source grid management platform, we will enable in-house IT or engineering teams (or utility consultants) to integrate data in or out of the platform, build tools to extend it, or customize applications on the platform to meet their needs.
- Smart-device vendors. We will provide a toolkit for connecting new devices that in turn provides transparency across the platform to understand how the devices are integrated and managed.
- Partners. We will welcome other companies with aligned interests to add to the project. Camus has already partnered with other entities on projects of shared interest – such as co-developing microgrid control with a corporate partner.
- Researchers. We will invite academics, universities, and national laboratories to leverage the platform as a test environment where they can offer new algorithms and improved analytics to solve real-world problems.
- Individuals. We are always looking for talented individuals to join our team! Community members offering their software programming skills to help modernize the grid towards zero carbon are welcome to participate as code contributors or maintainers.
How can I get involved?
Open source solutions have changed the way people think about software and hardware alike. Learn more about how you can help change the grid for a renewable energy future with Grid Management Software as a Service. Join us by engaging with Camus Energy — whether you are a software or hardware provider or an individual — working together we can have a more significant impact than individually.