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November 29, 2004
The Growing Influence Of Open Source Methods For Developing Software
Please note that contributed articles, blog entries, and comments posted on MCADcafe.com are the views and opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the management and staff of Internet Business Systems and its subsidiary web-sites.
Jeff Rowe - Managing Editor

by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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The Growing Influence Of Open Source Methods For Developing Software

CollabNet, a leading provider of on demand distributed software development solutions, today announced it is seeing a rise in the influence of corporate-initiated open source collaborative development projects which are being used to further the evolution of proprietary hardware and software applications. Much of the increased momentum stems from the wide success many open source communities have had including Sun Microsystems' sponsored OpenOffice.org, NetBeans.org, and Grid Engine projects, and the realization of the many benefits open source development provides.

In contrast to a traditional closed model which limits development to a defined group of programmers, open source development allows thousands of programmers from different companies in various industries to read, modify, and improve software source code. The benefits of open source to organizations are far reaching as the collaborative effort reduces both the time and cost associated with developing software, and improves the overall quality of applications by relying on a greater number of experts to fix problems and enhance functionality.

"By drawing on an expanded network of developers, open source development has yielded the creation of some of the IT industry's most important products in major categories including operating systems, Web servers and browsers, databases, and application servers," said Brian Behlendorf, founder and CTO at CollabNet and a founder of the Apache Software Foundation. "We are now seeing the application of open source techniques and approaches being used in corporate environments to help build both internal IT applications and commercial applications and becoming a part of the mainstream business environment."

CollabNet currently hosts open source community development projects for a number of the world's largest companies including investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, Intel, BEA Systems, Sybase, and Sun Microsystems.

"At first glance, a financial services firm running an open source project may seem like an oxymoron. However, working with CollabNet we have been able to increase the number of developers on a key piece of integration technology and establish it as a standard in the financial services industry," stated JP Rangaswami, CIO Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein. "CollabNet provides the ideal development environment for both open source communities and distributed entities because it is designed for the wide-area network, delivered on demand as a managed service, and is methodology neutral allowing organizations to employ the development methodologies best suited for them."

The development model derived from open source projects has also been taking off inside organizations as businesses are looking for ways to maximize their development efforts in distributed and globally dispersed/offshore environments.

"Agile development methodologies have rapidly grown in popularity over the past several years and share many common foundational concepts with open source development including cross-team code visibility, peer review, and continuous integration and testing throughout the application lifecycle. Enterprises can use these techniques within a wide range of environments including offshore and onshore distributed locations, corporate-initiated community projects, private cooperatives, and closed internal communities," said Bill Portelli, president and CEO of CollabNet. "So, even enterprises that may not be interested in open sourcing their code to outside developers can take advantage of the
techniques and benefits of open source methodologies to reduce the total cost of developing applications."

Some of the companies and government agencies using open source techniques and approaches inside their organizations include Motorola, Barclays Global Investors, HP, Samsung, and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). Also, the Avalanche Technology Cooperative, comprised of industry leaders Jostens, Best Buy, Imation, Nuvolution, Cargill Corporation, Thompson Legal & Regulatory, and Medtronic, Inc., is utilizing open source principals and the CollabNet environment to share intellectual property across its member organizations.

The CollabNet development environment is helping companies gain business advantage by giving them real-time insight into the overall application development lifecycle and delivering process predictability that allows teams to mitigate business risks. It also reduces application development time through a structured framework within which the sharing and reuse of applications become manageable.

Collabnet's collaborative, open source development environment has been embraced by software developers in a number of different industries, including systems, telecommunications, finance, insurance, and engineering. It also has some pretty impressive clients, including HP, Sun Microsystems, Intel, Samsung, and BEA Systems.

Probably the biggest and most recognized open source software development effort to date is the Linux operating system. Although before Linux, there was something of an open source movement, virtually all participants were either academics and/or hobbyists. In 1991 Linux was introduced by Linus Torvalds, a student in Finland. He posted to the comp.os.minix newsgroup with the words, "Hello everybody out there using minix. I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones." From those simple words sprang the open source movement that today is a huge and growing force in the software development arena. Associated with open
source are freeware and shareware software. There are literally thousands upon thousands of these available for just about every conceivable application, including a ton of them for MCAD purposes. As a matter of fact, IBSystems, the parent company of MCADCafi, recently acquired
www.FreeCADApps.com, a web site that includes nearly 6,000 free, downloadable CAD software programs and add-ons.

Along with the subscription model for selling software (where you don't actually "own" it, but rather, "rent" it), I consider collaborative open source development to be two of the major driving forces in developing, improving, and acquiring software. It remains to be seen if open source will really take off in the engineering segment of the software industry as it has in other market segments, but I truly think it will, starting with niches and then moving more mainstream over time.

Jeffrey Rowe is the editor and publisher of MCADCafé and MCAD Weekly Review. He can be reached here or 408.850.9230.

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    -- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.