Our culture of openness, collaboration, and continuous innovation is reflected in the software that we develop. In designing and developing our data platforms, we seek to combine the benefits of a commercially developed product—efficiency, reliability, and value—with the benefits of an open system—collaboration, flexibility, and customization. Simply put, we believe that open software is better software, and we have seen time and time again how openness enables organizations to achieve extraordinary outcomes with their data.
An open, extensible or plug-in architecture promotes customization by enabling users to add and remove custom modules. Apple iOS is an example of software that features an open architecture. While iOS ships with a number of applications written by Apple developers, independent developers are also able to write applications that run on the iPhone. Open software platforms provide a base upon which developers can easily build new capabilities. Our platforms feature an open, plugin architecture that allows organizations to add applications specially suited to their use cases.
An open architecture also promotes collaboration.We know that software systems do not operate in a vacuum, and organizations need software that can integrate with their existing investments. An open architecture makes cross-platform interoperability possible. Our software has a proven record of interoperability with legacy systems and third-party software.
Open and public application programming interfaces (APIs) allow for decentralized customization and integration, directly empowering the user to develop new capabilities on top of the platform. Google Maps is an example of software with an open and public API. Web application developers can integrate Google Maps functionality into their applications by interfacing with the Google Maps API. Software platforms with open, public and documented APIs are significantly more agile, flexible, and powerful than their closed alternatives. Our open APIs are publicly documented so that anyone can potentially extend our software in new and amazing ways that we never imagined.
Organizations need to be able to access and understand their data despite whatever changes might be going on in their software environment. Systems get refactored, business processes change and analytical methodologies evolve. Data in closed, proprietary formats can be rendered inaccessible during these changes, risking the loss of crucial intelligence.
An open data platform maximizes data portability, making it easy for users to get their data both into and out of the system. A truly open data platform is one that can integrate data in closed, proprietary formats and export the same data in a variety of usable, non-proprietary, documented formats while maintaining data fidelity. Open data is like an escape hatch that protects users from vendor lock-in to any one software system. Our platforms combine comprehensive data integration capabilities, open standards data formats and flexible export options to give organizations total control over their data.
It’s impossible to talk about openness in software without addressing the topic of open source. Open source software is software that is made available for use along with the source code that was written to create the software itself. This allows anyone to include, modify, and enhance someone else’s work as part of their own software.
Palantir’s ability to rapidly build and ship innovative software owes a great deal to the availability of high-quality open-source software that is freely available to integrate as components of larger works. A few high profile modules we use to power various pieces of our technology stack are Lucene (an open source search engine), Cassandra (an open source data warehousing server), and Hadoop (an open source implementation of Google’s MapReduce programming framework for super-scalable computation).
As a group, Palantir’s engineers are bullish on the idea and reality of open source, so much so that we’ve started open sourcing pieces of technology that we’ve built from scratch so that other organizations can benefit from the work that we’ve done—we’re paying it forward. Our first set of releases took place in late 2011. They live on the public open source repository known as GitHub; you can find them here . Going forward, time and resource permitting, we’ll be identifying other pieces of our software that make sense to release as open source components and making them available to the public.