What Is Inner Source Development And Should You Use It? – CloudSavvy IT

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Inner Source, often styled as InnerSource, refers to the adoption of open source processes and development methodologies within an organization. While “open source” involves the creation of publicly accessible tools, internal source means that you are working on internal projects using open approaches.

Open source workflows facilitate collaboration and rapid iteration. Publicly available issues and merge requests on platforms like GitHub allow anyone to contribute to a project. Bugs are discovered and fixed quickly, securely and transparently in an environment that promotes regular discussion between managers and users.

This model can contrast sharply with the way software is developed in large organizations. In these environments, the tools are developed on an ad hoc basis by individual teams. People work in silos, contributing to their individual areas, without worrying about overlapping work elsewhere.

Presentation of the inner source

The internal source movement applies lessons learned from open source development to internal projects of an organization. He advocates making all code visible to everyone, creating a more open culture where teams can find existing projects that might be of use to their work as well, and then make their own improvements.

In many organizations, new source repositories will be locked only for the people who need to work on them. Adopting an internal source template means everything is visible by default. This encourages team members to explore the organization’s entire body of code and contribute to discussions, even if the project is not strictly their domain.

The internal source isn’t just about the code either. It can be extended to include broader assets and documentation about the business, its operations, and its software. The aim is to empower individuals to choose tasks for themselves and share their experience where they believe it would benefit the organization, even if they are hired in a specific area of ​​intervention.

Benefits of internal source

Proponents of “inside-source” architectures note several important benefits of the approach, including reduced waste, faster launch times, less tension between teams, and improved code quality. These combine to improve organizational productivity and workplace culture.

  • Reduced waste, better reuse – Large organizations can end up duplicating similar code on several projects belonging to different teams. If the teams aren’t talking to each other, the fact that you now have three similar caching libraries might go unnoticed. Publishing all code internally will alert others to the presence of usual tools, and then encourage shared iteration on a single codebase. The wheel stops being reinvented, keeping everyone on task and speeding up the launch time.
  • Improved code quality – Code written in the open is more exposed, so bugs are likely to appear earlier in the development process. If a shared library is adopted by a new team, issues that were not previously noticed could arise. Implementing fixes will benefit all projects using the library.
  • Less tension between teams – Although the move to an open model may seem uncomfortable at first, the development of the internal source is intended to break down barriers and improve collaboration. Closed development can create tricky situations when you find that a neighboring team has built a better version of a library that you are using. In an open model, this is solved by iterating together over a shared codebase that includes the capabilities needed by the entire group.
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The internal source flattens the organizational structure, giving all developers the same view of the work in progress. Accepting contributions from outside the team that “owns” a project gives access to a fresh perspective and to a wider pool of solutions.

Implementing an internal source workflow

In its simplest form, the internal source is implemented by directing you to your version control platform and changing the visibility of projects from Private to Internal. In practice, you will need a more thoughtful plan than this if you want to successfully introduce the internal source model into an existing team environment.

There are two fundamental aspects to any transition: communication and tools. The first refers to educating team members about what is going on and how they will be able to contribute to open projects. “Set and forget” access levels will be ineffective because people will not be aware of their new capabilities and when they can be used.

The second aspect, the tools, involves the selection of appropriate software utilities to manage the open workflow. A working software team will likely already be using some form of version control, such as GitOps, to manage their code. However, the precise usage patterns can vary widely across the organization.

The internal source uses a unified development model that will work consistently across all projects. This means making the most of the capabilities of Git and your hosting platform, such as GitHub or GitLab.

Contributors should be able to submit changes in a pull request that maintainers review and then merge. Pull requests must be supplemented by a success test suite that runs in a CI pipeline. This gives the maintenance team assurance that the change is effective and ensures that all codes meet the same standards. Getting the codebase to self-verify through automated testing and checks helps take the friction out of the experience.

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You should also consider how support resources such as documentation and issue lists are stored and exposed. Create an open team wiki for API documents and architecture references; make sure all bugs and feature requests are tracked in a central location. This will allow people across the organization to find the information they need. It also allows individuals to make improvements to arbitrary projects in quieter times – anyone can find bug reports and start fixing them, leading to improvements in all downstream repositories.

Disadvantages to consider

The inner source is already a reality in many organizations. The potential benefits are attractive in situations where increased efficiency and throughput are desired. As with any approach to work, however, it is not necessarily suitable for all environments.

One of the most common concerns about the internal source is its impact on security and information disclosure. The similarities between the internal source and the larger open source ecosystem only extend so far: The code in an open library or framework does not contain anything sensitive, whereas you can deal with systems. owners closely supervised in your role at work.

It is natural that some projects should always be locked, accessible only to stakeholders and the directly responsible implementation team. However, owning high-stakes projects with a sensitive source, where it’s not sure to make them visible across the organization, shouldn’t spell the end of an internally-sourced initiative.

It’s always worth opening projects that can be safely displayed. You can also ignore non-sensitive parts of private projects in new publicly accessible shared libraries. This brings the inner source benefits closer to your sensitive assets without actually revealing them.

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Another internally sourced challenge is communicating expectations to developers. Developers may be wary of exploring open projects, especially if the internal source is brought into a historically closed organization. This can be addressed in a number of ways, such as allowing developers time to inspect code written by other teams.

It can also be helpful to start small, exposing only basic libraries that will be of use to many different teams in the organization. A good choice might be a well-known but private component that has a reputation for being unreliable or outdated – think again about “a bug reported with the ApiClient”. The openness of this component allows developers to make their own fixes as needed, improving productivity and promoting organic growth of the internal source mindset.

If you try this technique, be sure to warn the authors of the original project first – although this leads to greater overall efficiency, some people might treat other people contributing code that was previously “theirs” as an affront. Communicate why the inner source is brought into the organization, as well as the specific reasons for opening individual projects.


Internal source refers to taking development methods from the open source community and applying them to internal projects and processes. It facilitates unhindered access to useful code and documentation while promoting collaboration and communication.

Implemented correctly, the internal source can be a point of differentiation for an organization that reduces redundancy, increases throughput and promotes a more equitable development culture. Choosing to leave projects open by default allows original authors to tap into the human talent across the organization. In the same way that major open source frameworks and libraries harvest the collective capabilities of the community, the internal source can create internal tools that go beyond what a single team could achieve.

The inner source can be difficult to obtain. This can lead to reluctance on the part of code owners and mistrust on the part of developers. When introducing any form of internally sourced development, keep people on the same page by clearly documenting work expectations and procedures. Everyone should feel comfortable contributing so that the full benefits of the inner source become apparent.


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