Notes From The Hygieia Open Source Journey

How coordinated enterprise collaborations can better support and develop open source products

Open source software opens up the culture of continuous innovation that makes things better for our entire industry. But what happens when a project grows up and a single company cannot - or maybe even should not - drive the roadmap alone?

Open source software has changed how we think of culture, collaboration, partnership, community building, and how we hold discussions about development best practices. In open source, a good idea is a good idea no matter where it comes from; whether that is a small company, a large company, a senior leader, or a developer. With open source we can collect the best-of-the-best ideas and build best-of-the-best websites and applications with them. 

As successful open source projects develop- gaining users, contributors, and enterprise partners - that culture of collaboration grows as well. Such has been the case with Hygieia - the DevOps dashboard tool Capital One first open sourced in 2015.

The Leadup to Hygieia - Capital One’s Greater Open Source Journey

Before I get into Hygieia, let me give an overview of the greater open source journey it is a part of. Over the last seven years, Capital One has been on two interrelated journeys as we transform our DevOps and Open Source practices. I was an integral part of this transformation as we worked to bring down silos and streamline processes across development teams.

In 2013 we started a conversation about if Capital One should contribute back to the open source community and since then we have made many contributions to all sorts of projects — some large, some small. We have also created an open source program to centrally manage open source activities and partnerships with legal, security, and engineering that pushed our usage even further. All of which lead to our next big move, taking it to the next level and making an open source project of our own.

Beginning Our Hygieia Journey

The first question we asked was, “What project do we sponsor and support open sourcing?” We needed something that was valuable and useful as a dev tool but not necessarily related to our core business. So we settled on open sourcing one of our internal DevOps tools, Hygieia, in 2015.

“Hygieia is, at its heart, an aggregation platform. It reaches out into various systems in your enterprise, grabs relevant information, saves it, and makes it available via a dashboard view.” - Hygieia 3.0 — Contributing to Our Expanded Open Source Roadmap

When we first open sourced Hygieia there were no expectations around it. We did not know if anyone else would use it or contribute any code to it.  We also did not know if we needed dedicated developers to support external users. It was just a simple DevOps dashboard tool, how much interest could there be?

We launched it on GitHub and initially there was nothing, no response. Then after a week or so it started trending and people started reaching out to us about it. We realized we had a successful project on our hands that needed support and serious intention behind it.

Fast forward to 2019. As of October, Hygieia has 136 individual contributors, over 3100 stars, and over 1300 forks. It’s also being worked on by companies as large and diverse as Walmart, Verizon, SingleStone Consulting, and American Airlines. It’s become the go-to dashboard tool for many companies, perhaps even yours.

Creating a Consortium of Enterprise Contributors

The growth of these corporate contributions - representing diverse companies from diverse fields -  made it clear that we needed a different approach to managing Hygieia. We wanted to get our heads around a new roadmap and how we could streamline development and create a stronger community across all these big enterprises. So we asked ourselves, “What would it look like if Capital One no longer directed development but tapped partners from fields outside finance to support the needs of more companies and industries?”

In July of 2018, a formal steering committee, or consortium, for the development of Hygieia was formed from the core enterprise contributors. At its current rate of adoption, we needed more understanding of the big challenges Hygieia should address, as well as a tighter feedback loop from it’s largest users. And, this being an open source project, we wanted to promote a sense of community among its core developers so we could get more and better work done. After all, in the spirit of collaboration, Hygieia should be a product that everybody can use and everybody can have a say in. The consortium was the next logical step in building that community around the project across enterprises.

So what does collaboration looks like for the Hygieia consortium? Right now we host an annual face-to-face meeting where representatives of each member company share their latest work with the project, identify improvement opportunities, and help draft a project roadmap. We’ve held two of them so far, and this meeting helps produce a shared sense of ownership and energizes everyone on our mission to build a project that addresses broad enterprise needs. In addition to this annual meeting, we’ve also collaborated on empathy interviews and set a virtual meeting cadence to share our progress and development wins. 

Hygieia is a better open source project for these consortium collaborations and we have seen significant improvements since our first consortium meeting. Specifically, we’ve seen several new collectors for CICD pipeline tools, improvements to the views available within our executive dashboard, and the elimination of technical debt. If you’ve used Hygieia in the last 18 months you’ve probably benefited from some of the consortium’s collaboration. 

The consortium has benefited more than just project improvements. Some of the members have teamed up to give talks and panel discussions on the benefits of pairing with other enterprises to drive open source development. These continued partnerships between the consortium members have been vital to the growth and awareness of the project. Hygieia is too large and has too many stakeholders to be directed by one company’s vision alone, and in the world of open source it doesn’t have to be. While I am proud of the work Capital One did, and continues to do, on Hygieia, I am equally proud to see it “grow up” and move on to a bigger and better community presence.

Capital One remains committed to using, contributing to, and launching open source projects. Check us out on GitHub for more information on using and contributing to Hygieia.

Topo Pal, Senior Director & Senior Engineering Fellow

Senior Director & Sr. Engineering Fellow at Capital One. Interested in DevOps -DevOpsSec/ Rugged DevOps - Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery -Natural Language Processing -Information Extraction -Architecture Strategy -Application Architecture -Integration Architecture -Java.

DISCLOSURE STATEMENT: © 2019 Capital One. Opinions are those of the individual author. Unless noted otherwise in this post, Capital One is not affiliated with, nor endorsed by, any of the companies mentioned. All trademarks and other intellectual property used or displayed are property of their respective owners.

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