Open Source Use On The Rise, But Management Policies Lag

Among the biggest concerns keeping both large and small developers up at night are licensing and support.

Ed Scannell, Contributor

March 12, 2009

3 Min Read

The good news is the deployment of open source is growing. The bad news is that policies managing those projects are an afterthought.

Those are the results of an informal survey of developers at the Software Development West Software Development Conference this week.

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.

According to the survey, 44% said they were using more open source software than they were a year ago, with 32% saying they were using about the same, and 12% saying they were using less.

However, only 22% said their respective companies have clear management policies and procedures in place for overseeing open source projects.

Underlining the widespread lack of management policies in place, the survey results showed that only 40% of companies with more than 500 developers had active management policies.

While some 82% of the respondents said they used some form of open source software, a large majority said they either had "little awareness" or no opinion to offer on Microsoft and that company's position on open source software. This took Vescuso by surprise, given that many of the developers attending the show were committed in varying degrees to Microsoft's .Net.

"With Microsoft talking about and opening up more towards open source, we thought people here would have some opinions about that, but it just drew a lot of blanks with them," Vescuso said.

Among the biggest concerns keeping both large and small developers up at night were licensing and support. A little more than 50% said they had issues or unanswered questions that relate to licensing open source software, while 21% worried about providing technical support. The third ranking issue on the worry list surrounded overall security.

On the positive side, 16% said they had no concerns or unresolved issues relating to open source.

Asked what programming language they most often used, 35% said Java, with another 27% preferring C and C++, and another 27% selecting C#. Not unexpectedly, Visual Basic was finished fourth with only 6% saying they used the Microsoft language.

There's more to open source net management apps than cost savings. InformationWeek has published an independent analysis of this topic. Download the report here (registration required).

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