Many software companies are leveraging open source software as part of their business models and solutions. The reasons for doing so are simple: Open source software usually does not carry license fees, has high quality and can be easily accessed.
So let us talk about how commercial software vendors are using open source components as part of commercial software. Despite the opportunities and advantages open source provides, there are important development operations aspects, like updating open source components, and risks like security vulnerabilities that have to be managed. So let us look a little deeper into each of these aspects.
Development operations issues
On average, software products usually contain between a few and a few hundred open source components (source: hippocmms.com/software). The complexity gets even worse when we consider the fact that open source components themselves often contain numerous other open source components.
While it is easy for a developer to follow the community for one component, it is hard to follow the communities of dozens or hundreds of open source components. Getting notice of updated and improved versions of many open source components is often impossible. So the usage of numerous open source components leads to high effort maintenance work for developers which lowers productivity. Fortunately, tools like VersionEye allows you to manage and update these components continuously and lets you leverage developer capacity for innovation instead of looking for updates of open source components
One key source of risk of open source besides license compliance are security vulnerabilities, that are not fixed. To determine security vulnerabilities is a high effort activity. Fortunately, many people in the open source community test, collect and fix open source security vulnerabilities. The developer only needs to get notice of these activities.
Nowadays, many updates of open source components are related to fixing security vulnerabilities. Missing a security update is critical. If a developer misses an update, he exposes products and their customers to a hacker attack. Hackers know that a vulnerability exists in an old version of the open source component. Fortunately there are tools like VersionEye that track security vulnerabilities for you and alert you regarding those vulnerabilities and about security related security updates of open source components.
New book on open source best practices
There is a new a book that has all the necessary background information. It provides an overview of business models, processes and tools relevant for commercial software vendors leveraging open source software and open source communities, no matter if the company participates in open source development or not. The one of a kind combination of academic and pragmatic information, from researchers, practitioners and tool vendors like VersionEye make this book a must have for all people in the software industry.
The book is called “Best practices for commercial use of open source software” and it is available in all major online and offline bookstores, in Google Play, iBooks and on Kindle. ISBN 3738619097
This is a guest from Dr. Karl Popp, Senior Director Corporate Development M&A @ SAP.
Dr. Karl Popp is all about corporate development and mergers and acquisitions in the software business, from successful partnerships to successful mergers and acquisitions. He loves to share his wisdom in books and other media like http://www.drkarlpopp.com.