Rackspace is making it a priority for employees to contribute to any public open source project, even ones that may compete with Rackspace, as part of a new policy at the company.
According to a blog post by Rackspace’s VP on Intellectual Property Van Lindberg, its policy previously required employees to check with its IP Committee/legal department before contributing. However, it found that over the past three years, there were no cases where its employees (or Rackers) came to the department with unreasonable requests.
Now, “Rackers are free to contribute to and participate in any public open source project of their choice that has an established open source license,” Van Lindberg said.
“We have Rackers who are armed with the talent to elevate open source projects,” he said. “We value their creativity and we want to encourage them to build and showcase their expertise and specialties. These skills, to us, are more important than the IP in, say, a particular patch.”
The policy encourages Rackers to contribute to projects on their own time. If they wish to contribute during work hours they must get approval from their manager.
Also, if a Racker wants to contribute to a project that is “directly competitive with Rackspace,” the company wants to understand why before they contribute.
Encouraging employees to participate in open source projects not only contributes to innovation at the company, but also likely helps Rackspace maintain its spot on Fortune’s “Best Companies to Work For” list, which it made earlier this year.
Smaller hosting or cloud providers could adopt a similar policy or there may be an informal policy already in place. The idea helps companies like Rackspace stay competitive, and other companies are making contributions to open source projects to do just this. For example, recently¬†Microsoft shared its cloud server designs through the Open Compute Project.