Creating an Open Source build farm

When it comes to any community driven open source project, funding is always the limiting factor. There is no cheap way to get machines hosted for you in the cloud so it’s essential that you approach as many companies as you can and try and build up sponsorship deals. We currently have over 30 build machines in our Jenkins farm as well as several other machines hosting our other key services such as the API, Keybox and our Semaphore Ansible box.

How to approach companies

The first thing that you must consider when approaching companies is what can you do for them? Can you offer them promotion in exchange? Or perhaps you can help them by beta testing some of their new systems? When it comes to contacting the company I tend to use their existing contact email from the website. You don’t need to write a very long email but it’s worthwhile tailoring each email for the company that you’re writing to. For example don’t write to a Mac hosting company requesting some “machines”, ask for some 4cpu, 16gb Mac Mini’s. Make sure that you explain what you do and why you need the machines, remember to include how you can help them in exchange. One of the main things to remember when approaching companies asking for sponsorship is that a lot of the time, they might not have an existing system in place to provide sponsored or “free” machines. It can therefore take a long time from your initial point of contact before you get a final decision.

Sponsorship options

Every company will interpret sponsorship in a different way. Some will just hand over machines, others will give you a discount, and others may give you a prepaid hosting account. All of these options can have a different monetary value. You may have $1500 from one company and $20 from another. It’s also worth considering the cost of what your sponsor is giving you, for example AIX hosting will cost a lot more than standard x86 Linux hosting. You may therefore find that some companies offer you less than others.

Success! You have some machines…

If you are lucky enough to have been offered some machines then the first thing to remember is that the company has probably had to pull quite a few strings to make this happen. Make sure that you express your gratitude to the company and assure them that the machines will be useful. Make sure that you put the machines to use as quickly as possible otherwise it looks like you didn’t really need them in the first place, and you don’t want the company to question their sponsorship.

If you aren’t so lucky…

Don’t be disappointed if the answer is no, there are many hosting companies out there and there will almost certainly be a handful that are interested in your organisation. For a lot of companies, sponsorship just isn’t on the table. It’s also worth asking them if they can suggest any other companies that may be interested.

Conclusion

We’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of our sponsors. I’m really proud that we have built up so many connections with leading companies in the hosting industry. Check out our sponsors page here to see all of our current sponsors. Remember to keep your sponsors up to date with progress as this is what ultimately leads to a long term sponsorship.

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