How do Companies Collaborate in Open Source Ecosystems? An Empirical Study of OpenStack
Open Source Software (OSS) has come to play a critical role in the software industry. Some large ecosystems enjoy participation of large numbers of companies, each of which has its own focus and goals. Indeed, companies that otherwise compete, may become collaborators within the OSS ecosystem they participate in. Prior research has largely focused on firm involvement in OSS projects, but there is a scarcity of research focusing on company collaborations within OSS ecosystems. Some of these ecosystems have become critical building blocks for organizations worldwide; hence, a clear understanding of how companies collaborate within large ecosystems is essential. This paper presents the results of an empirical study of the OpenStack ecosystem, in which hundreds of companies collaborate on thousands of project repositories in order to deliver cloud distributions. Based on a detailed analysis, we identify clusters of collaborations, and identify four strategies that companies adopt to engage with the OpenStack ecosystem. We also find that companies may engage in intentional or passive collaborations, or may work in an isolated fashion. Further, we find that a company’s position in the collaboration network is positively associated with its productivity in OpenStack. Our study sheds light on how large OSS ecosystems work, and in particular on the patterns of collaboration within one such large ecosystem.