About Open Source At Porsche
The storied automaker is driving rapidly towards an open source future. Part of the Volkswagen Group, Porsche uses open source software primarily for embedded systems, such as electroniccontrol units, and for consumer-facing mobile / web applications. Spurred by the rapid growth of Tesla and its software-first automotive technology development approach, Volkwagen has created a number of initiatives to accelerate the internal creation of software, as well as participation in open source communities and projects. As part of this effort, Porsche created its own OSPO in 2020. The group now claims several full-time employees, and coordinators operating in multiple product groups across the automotive firm. In addition, the OSPO is supported by several OSS legal experts.
The Porsche OSPO Journey
🚀 OSPO Kick-off
Historically, Porsche has consumed open source software for niche capabilities. Most of the firm’s focus prior to 2018 was on ensuring that engineers choosing to use open source did so in a compliant manner. While open source usage did undergo legal review, each product group had their own compliance process and coordination.
The company recognized that it would be better served with a unified open source compliance and license strategy, as well as one set of tooling to simplify compliance.
“We always had a compliance program. At one point we decided that because we do consume a lot of open source, we needed an overarching cross-functional team. We didn’t want to rely on product teams but rather on a central point of contact for technical, legal and other questions.”
– Nik Peters, Head of the Open Source Program Office at Porsche
Beyond compliance, Porsche recognized that its future lay in embracing open source to more quickly iterate and innovate, and drive products to market faster.
“It was clear that staying only with license compliance would not be enough. Together with Porsche Digital (serves as the digital competence center of Porsche) we needed to drive contributions to OSS, create inner sourcing programs, and make sure our OSS was secure.”
– Nik Peters
More than many companies, Volkswagen is aggressively driving to foster open source, even to the point of creating entirely separate companies that focus on software innovation for the industry. The company has a stated goal of moving away from reliance on suppliers for software to power components and towards internal development. To that end, VW set up Cariad as a standalone business to create software for all the brands of the conglomerate and pool resources. CARIAD is closely involved with the OSPO efforts at Porsche and other Volkswagen Group companies. At the same time, Porsche and VW wanted to improve collaborative development efforts and make that a greater part of their technology development approach.
CARIAD is closely involved with the OSPO efforts at Porsche and other Volkswagen Group companies
🧩 OSPO Structure
Porsche started the pre-OSPO effort in 2018 with the launch of a formal OSPO in 2020. The Porsche OSPO is organized around the concept of “coordinators” who sit inside of product teams and support the OSPO. During those early days, Peters and other Porsche OSS leaders spent time talking to leading software and technology companies with long open source track records, such as SAP, to learn about how they handled and nurtured open source. Initially composed of just Peters and one colleague, the Porsche OSPO has since grown with a roadmap for backing and funding from upper level management. Peters himself reports to the Porsche CPO. In 2020, Porsche officially launched its OSPO. Today all open source software compliance and approvals runs through the OSPO.
🎯 OSPO Goals
Even from inception, the group’s vision of creating a Porsche open source ecosystem involved grander and more holistic goals. Those goals included:
- Improving Porsche’s reputation as a software organization in the open source development community
- Reduce time to market of products and innovation through open source
- Reduce costs of software development
- Foster greater collaboration with industry and other technology leaders
- Improve software quality and security
- Attract and retain high quality employees
Since 2020, Porsche’s OSPO has rapidly expanded its participation in open source.
“Today, we rely on other companies and other development efforts, so much so that we plan our internal releases based on what those groups are doing. It has evolved tremendously from joining mailing lists and Slacks to driving new open source initiatives.”
– Nik Peters
⭐️ OSPO in action: Enabling Open Source Contributions
For example, Porsche has collaborated with a number of other industry players to work on the OSS Review Toolkit, an orchestration toolchain that automates and standardizes compliance and reporting of OSS. Porsche is working with developers from Bosch, Here Technologies, and other automotive industry companies and software companies in the European Union. The company has also stepped up promotion of its open source efforts in media and through code school sponsorships, where Peters is giving frequent keynote talks. In close collaboration with Porsche Digital, the OSPO also enables and promotes open source contributions from the Porsche ecosystem.
To be fair, Peters feels that Porsche has made great improvements but has a long way to go. Porsche developers are participants but not yet heavy contributors, outside of a handful of efforts. The company does monitor contributions and is looking to install metrics around OSS participation as part of the OSPO’s management objectives.
“As an organization, we are in between being a contributor but still more being a participant. One of our big goals is to see if we can drive and set open standards — for example, an automotive open source standard”
– Nik Peters
Make not mistake the need for speed is driving Porsche’s OSPO. Peters points out that while the average car made by traditional manufacturers has dozens of electronic control units (ECUs), each with a different bit of software, cars made by Tesla only have two ECUs. This enables Tesla to treat feature development as more of a software problem.
“Our VW Group (CARIAD) goal is to move from 10-20% in-house embedded software to at least 60% over 5 years. This for us is a game changer To hit that goal, Porsche will need all the boost it can get from leveraging open source the boost it can get from leveraging open source”
– Nik Peters
- Full OSPO Study: The Evolution of the Open Source Program Office (OSPO)
- Cariad Project