Does your business depend on open source? The question is rhetorical. Every business depends on open source. If you believe open source is irrelevant then you need to reflect: Do you run software in cloud? 99% of you will answer "yes, of course". And right there, you depend on open source software. Most of the entire cloud stack is open source tools. Providers wrap their services around those tools, but without open source, there would be no cloud service. Or in other words: if you want to be entirely independent from open source, you need to go back a couple of decades and stay there. You cannot time travel? Then you must shutdown your business.

Many companies are aware of the significance on their business. Maybe you have seen on presentations for open source software with lists of famous companies backing the development. For instance, the "Cloud Native Computing Foundation" ensuring your cloud business continues: 

If you know a little about the internet then funding famous initiatives such as CNCF and Linux obviously make sense as they back almost the entire global economy. But your business depends on many more projects! Not only those you learn about when they suddenly change their licensing model (like Grafana, Elastic Search) for not being exploited by corporate service providers. 

Your visuals on your website, your database, hundreds and thousands of direct and indirect modules and tools you take for granted for decades. Your business relies on them. Often funding open source is still more economical than investing in vendor-locked proprietary solutions. Everything keeping most open source projects alive is the motivation of a group of people, partly fueled by enthusiasm, partly by appreciation. Therefore, it is great investment spending budget on showing your suppliers appreciation. 

At Arvato System among other tools, our global test automation relies on Robot Framework, a popular open source automation framework. As open source developer, I am happy to share, that Arvato Systems has joined the Robot Framework Foundation!


Development of Robot Framework is funded by the non-profit Robot Framework Foundation. It consists of companies and organizations that want to ensure the continuity of Robot Framework now and in the future.

How to Support Open Source Projects

Join a foundation

Bigger projects like Linux, CNCF & Robot Framework have a foundation backing the project. Joining an open source foundation has the obvious benefits of financing of the project, enabling developers to continuously enhance and maintain a critical component of your tool stack. But there is more: by entering a foundation you get in contact with other members. You frequently exchange ideas about the usage of software with companies that are in different markets. You learn new impulses for your own approach and even new business opportunities!

Buy a license

Sometimes your critical component has an "evil" license like GPL3, basically requiring your product to become open source, too. Actually, the license is not evil, it protects the interest of the author. You can often purchase a enterprise license for a small price. The "evil" open source license gives you the opportunity to experiment with the project for as long as you need to, before you actually buy it.

Buy a coffee

Many open source projects have a small link attached saying "Buy me a coffee" asking for a small tip for their work.

Become a reference user

Like any product, open source projects benefit from their references. You may ask your favorite open source project, if they would like to market your company as reference user.


Contributing is the biggest support you can provide for open source projects you are depending on. If you find a bug or feature and know how to implement it, provide a pull request! It does not make sense even for you, if you hold your changes back in your company and patch them on every future release. Remember that your only business runs, because hundreds of thousands of individuals collaborate. When contributing, you gain more than you give.

Publish open source

Second way of contributing: publish open source. Of course, you need to evaluate what you can share. Publishing critical intellectual property is usually not what you intend. But what about those small tools you implemented that will never become a product in your portfolio? They become old, expensive to maintain. Make them open source! Others may contribute new feature requests or even provide features themselves! Get impulses improving your own processes and, if you are lucky, a community supporting you.

Contributing is the actual benefit. Open source is not fueled only by enthusiasm and saints. Open Source is the purest form of collaboration: You invest some effort and profit in return from the efforts from hundreds and thousands of people. In a free market, no provider can ever keep up with open source.

What project would you like to see contributed to?