Stopping The Free Software Free-For-All - InformationWeek

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Commentary
3/13/2009
06:58 AM
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Stopping The Free Software Free-For-All

Employees don't manage themselves, and neither does software. It's surprising how many companies overlook this fact when they adopt open-source applications.

Employees don't manage themselves, and neither does software. It's surprising how many companies overlook this fact when they adopt open-source applications.Black Duck Software recently surveyed a group of 50 developers to learn what they know about open-source software and how they put it to work for their companies. It's a relatively small sample, and the developers surveyed worked for firms ranging in size from less than 20 to more than 10,000 employees.

Still, the survey reveals some important, and possibly troubling, trends in how companies of all sizes think about open-source applications. Here is how InformationWeek summarized the results of the Black Duck survey: "Company officials at Black Duck Software, which conducted the survey among 50 developers who worked for companies ranging in size from less than 20 to 10,000, said they were surprised by the continued ad hoc approach to managing open source projects.

"There are a complex set of compliance, security, and management problems that can surface when OSS is used at enterprise scale, but these concerns seem to be secondary to getting the work done," said Peter Vescuso, an executive VP with Black Duck Software, from the conference.

Vescuso said many times developers do not know the licensing conditions attached to the open source code they're using, and without proper management policies in place they can easily run afoul of its licensing terms." The story also reports that while nearly all of the developers said their companies were using the same or more open-source software today than they did a year ago, only one company in five had "clear management policies and procedures in place for overseeing open source projects."

Perhaps most alarming is the fact that half of the developers surveyed said they had "issues or unanswered questions that relate to licensing open source software."

Nothing kills any IT initiative faster than a disconnect between a company's decision-makers and the front-line employees who actually work with technology on a day-to-day basis. And in this case, the fact that so many managers don't see a problem could make it even more dangerous.

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