Census to track open source software

How much open source software does your shop actually use?

Although many IT shops can reel off statistics on the number of servers they’ve deployed, how many Windows desktops are in place and details about their Unix installations, few know how much open source software they use. And most software discovery tools don’t do a good job of telling them.

Early next year, the Open Source Census hopes to change that by making it easier for a wide range of businesses to seek data on open-source applications. The census project was announced Wednesday by Broomfield, Colo.-based open-source vendor OpenLogic Inc., the prime sponsor of the effort.

The idea, according to organizers, is to help enterprises better track open source use for licence management and to improve application co-ordination and innovation across a company.

Kim Weins, senior vice-president of marketing at OpenLogic, said the idea arose this summer after the company developed its open source software discovery tool, OSS Discovery. The tool was aimed at helping customers scan their IT infrastructures to see what open source applications they were running for tracking, maintenance, licensing and quality assurance reasons. Many customers were surprised at the amount of open source software they were using, she said.

“One company, a manufacturer, thought it was using 20 to 30 open source applications,” Weins said. From a sampling of 2,000 computers inside the business, OSS Discovery found 220 open source applications — more than 10 times what the company expected. A telecommunications company searched about 200 machines with OSS Discovery and found about 250 applications, including just 70 that had been officially approved by the company.

IT World Canada blogs

Open source has always deserved a census, writes ComputerWorld Canada editor Shane Schick. Read more here.

“As we collected this data, we realized that companies could use the information for benchmarks against other companies and for market research” about the pervasiveness of open source, Weins said.

The latest version of the OSS Discovery software is now available for free download.

Once the census project begins in the first quarter of 2008, enterprise users will be asked to share statistical information to aid the overall census, Weins said. Participation will be optional and anonymous, with no records kept of IP addresses, company names, usernames or any other identifying information, she said.

So far, OSS Discovery can find about 900 open-source applications as it crawls an enterprise user’s IT systems analyzing the installed software. Within a year, the group hopes that the tool will be able to track as many as 5,000 applications. The census would be similar to similar projects that many companies already take part in, such as salary surveys and IT security studies that analyze anonymous firewall logs for attacks by hackers, Weins said.

The Open Source Census Project will be hosted online by Web-based software development collaboration platform vendor CollabNet Inc.

Bill Portelli, president and CEO of Brisbane, Calif.-based CollabNet, said the project will help participants know what they are running and how those applications could be reused elsewhere. “The open-source community is a terrific way to leverage the community’s resources globally,” he said. “Once companies know the applications are there, they can [easily] reuse them elsewhere to accelerate innovation.”

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