Our latest open source contribution trials were the first in the history of Lloyds Banking Group.

Salvatore Novelli
Software Engineering CoE Lead
07 July 2022
4 min read

 

Last year, a group of dedicated colleagues at Lloyds Banking Group were tasked with implementing and scaling our process for using open source software. This was the beginning of our Open Source Mission.

As the UK’s largest digital bank, we believe that a strong open source strategy can help support our goal of helping Britain prosper. And our latest contribution trials were the first in our history.

 

What is open source software?

Open source software is software that’s been made public by its creator. It can be used, controlled, modified, and shared by developers across the world and, in most cases, for free. Collaborating and using open source software, then, allows our engineers to see what specific software does, and how it can be used to make our own products and services better. 

It follows that as the UK’s biggest digital bank, we want our millions of customers to have access to the best digital tools, platforms, and products. Open source allows us to do this.

Find out more about our Open Source Mission.

“Collaborating and using open source allows our engineers to see what specific software does, and how it can be used to make our own products and services better.”

 

What is an open source code contribution?

An open source code contribution involves making a change to the source code of an open source software package. There are two types of open source contribution: code contribution and non-code contribution.

Typically, a code contribution can add a new feature, fix a security issue, or address an existing bug. A non-code contribution, on the other hand, simply refers to any contribution which does not change the source code. For example, bug reporting, feature requests, or more general discussions about the design or functionality of open source.

Open source contribution is important because it allows bugs to be detected and fixed quickly, without the need for third parties to identify the problems, which takes time. The more contributions we make, the more we will be able to establish ourselves as leaders in the field and further our investment in the wider open source community. 

 

Our open source contribution trials

We have completed two open source contribution trials to date. During our first trial, we chose to contribute a bug fix to an open source project called Unleash, which had already been used and customised by a team at Lloyds Banking Group. 

A change was subsequently made to add a new database option to populate a name field within Unleash’s internal database. This marked the first open source contribution trial in the history of Lloyds Banking Group.

Our second contribution trial concerned Confluent Kafka – our centralised message streaming platform, which helps ensure our applications, processes, and servers have access to the same data as it changes. 

There are many integrations between Kafka enabled through Kafka Connectors across the bank. One of the most common is into Google Bigquery – a data warehouse that can help with data management and analytics. The change that was made removed a redundant feature that might have impacted the stability of the connectors and required manual intervention from engineers to handle. 

Removal of the feature gives us greater confidence that the connectors will be stable, and release engineer time for other activities. Moreover, it also means we can scale up the usage of this tool with a level of confidence.

Other benefits include building our experience contributing to open source projects, leading the way for others to make changes that benefit us in other open source areas, and boosting the external reputation of the Group. And the long term benefit of this trial lets us build on our internal relationships with Confluent and Google, so our team can contribute to further products in the future.

 

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What does this mean for Lloyds Banking Group?

As I say, open source contribution boasts a range of benefits for us – specifically our engineers and, most importantly, our customers. Our use of open source software lets us support organisation security and encourages flexibility and resilience through collaboration and open source communities. 

It also lets us attract the right new talent. Indeed, we understand that the most capable developers want to work with the most up-to-date technologies, and in an environment that encourages collaboration. This is why we are so committed to achieving the goals of our Open Source Mission. 

For the wider financial services industry, our contribution to open source shows that the financial sector is positively giving back to the open source community. This, in turn, actively encourages a collaborative culture.

 

Looking ahead

As you can see, open source is an important part of our plan to help Britain prosper. So, it’s vital that we continue to interact with developer communities to encourage inclusivity and build constructive relationships.

Of course, we recognise that there will be challenges and risks ahead. But we are confident we have the correct procedures in place to safeguard our processes. 

Indeed, we believe that a collaborative software development process will help us cut considerable costs and reduce development time. We’ll also be able to increase quality and security by encouraging a culture of transparency and active peer-review.

Lastly, we are enthusiastically encouraging the publishing of our own open source as code too. And the Open Source Mission Team will continue to promote the importance of open source across the Group – highlighting the benefits it can bring and communicating any new contributions. 

Salvatore Novelli
About the author Salvatore Novelli, Software Engineering CoE Lead, Group Transformation

Software Engineering CoE Lead, Group Transformation

Salvatore is a passionate technologist with almost 20 years of experience in building large scale, distributed software, within hi-tech companies.

He started his journey as a developer in a small company in Rome, and worked several years as a consultant across Europe, Middle East and Asia, gradually moving into leadership following passion for people, technology and craftsmanship.

Salvatore's background Read less

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