Sabre takes a stab at open source

Most major organizations have already made the move to adopting open source for some enterprise functions. But few have adopted the principles and practices of the open source community as an enterprise model.

Sabre Airline Solutions’ Terry Nolen, senior principal software architect, and Dave Gebhart, senior developer, will be explaining how they’ve adopted open source next week at the O’Reilly Open Source Convention 2007 July 23-27 in Portland, Ore.

“From an airline solutions perspective, we’re finding the open source solutions are more adaptable — maybe not quite as feature rich — but more adaptable and cost-effective for us,” Nolen says.

Anyone at Sabre can volunteer to work on any open source project being developed internally — as long as it’s on their free time. It developed its own platform.

“Projects will retain the intellectual property for those things, but since we’re such a large development shop, we can share the efforts within our organization,” says Nolen.

“We have lots of talented people that might want to try different technology and be part of a thing that helps them achieve their personal goals.”

For employees, it’s a significant training opportunity as well, adds Gebhart. “A lot of projects that come into this platform are very leading-edge and a lot of people that join in our platform are people who want to self-(teach).

They get to write code or develop standards and they get involved. Whenever you’re on break or at lunch you can go in and do coding on something you actually like, as opposed to something you’re being told to do.”

Projects can range from documentation to design and everything in between, he says.

“There’s no limitation on what people can do. We try purposely not to govern, just to guide.”

Some projects will stay internal and never go outside the volunteer group, but others mature, says Nolen. “We also have cases where some projects become production-applicable and get funded for full-time staff so it moves from volunteer to full time.”

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