Open-source browser finally gets enterprise strength and security

The IT research group at Fidelity Investments began looking at Firefox more than a year ago. But Fidelity’s Mike Askew said it’s only in the past few months that he has seen the open-source browser pick up the types of features that start to make it “enterprise-ready.”

For instance, Askew, senior vice-president of the Fidelity Center for Applied Technology, said the company wanted a binary patching mechanism to avoid the expense of deploying an entire new release every time a security or bug fix was made available for Firefox.

With Firefox 1.5, which became available in late November, Fidelity finally got its wish, the culmination of months of discussions and collaboration between the company and the Mozilla Foundation. Askew said employees from his group met with Mozilla representatives several times in Boston and California to work on the binary patching feature.

“They weren’t an organization that was used to working with enterprises, so it was very much a learning experience on both sides,” he said. “We’re the enterprise standards systems organization [within Fidelity]. They’re a foundation. But we came together and really worked well with each other.”

Mozilla typically focuses on consumer features, figuring that partners such as IBM, Novell Inc. and Red Hat Inc. are its “best route to enterprise success” because they’re more attuned to corporate needs, said Mike Shaver, a technology strategist at Mozilla Corp., the non-profit Mozilla Foundation’s wholly owned development and distribution subsidiary.

IBM, for instance, has been leading the development of a Client Customization Kit (CCK) in an effort to help its own IT organization and IT shops at other large companies that want to deploy Firefox on a widespread basis. David Boloker, CTO for emerging Internet technology at IBM, said that some of the features in the CCK were the result of feedback from five or six companies that are already using a Version 0.8 beta release of the tool to produce custom configurations of Firefox.

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