Thursday, January 24, 2008

HP's FOSSology

On December 19th, 2007 I blogged, welcoming FOSSology’s imminent introduction. Today HP made the formal announcement.

As I mentioned in my previous post, FOSSology shows how significant the market is for Black Duck’s products. In essence, a very, very small part of what Black Duck does can now be accomplished with the FOSSology project, led by HP.

I fully expect, and hope, that many corporations and FOSS projects will download and use FOSSology. It will show corporations how prevalent FOSS code is in the applications they build, deploy and sell. It will enable FOSS projects to understand and clarify the licensing of their code.

After these initial uses, companies will see the need for comprehensive code analysis, professional services, insightful reports and valuable audit trails. I think that FOSSology downloads will ultimately provide potential customers for Black Duck Software. Black Duck builds on top of what FOSSology provides, based on years of development of our own solutions, to answer the question, “Yes, I use open source in my applications, now what?”

For FOSS developers, FOSSology will reveal how much cut-and-paste development actually goes on. The lack of clear and accurate license labeling of FOSS has impeded the adoption and reuse of these projects by others, who are cautious about using or contributing to code whose license terms are unclear or conflicting. A FOSS tool which free and open source project developers can download and use to clean up their often confusing licensing is a benefit to everyone, everywhere who seeks to use or contribute to FOSS.

While I welcome FOSSology, I am far less optimistic about HP’s efforts to turn FOSSology downloads into enterprise deals. This market is already very well established, given Black Duck’s success to this point (note my previous post about Black Duck’s customer success in 2007).

Some of my concern revolves around HP’s word choice. HP labels FOSSology as “a software governance initiative to help companies address the legal, financial and security risks faced when adopting free and open source software (FOSS)”. Using the terminology “initiative” is a hedge the HP lawyers must have imposed on the FOSSology developers and marketers. Or is it? Is this a commitment to deliver a real solution or an effort to throw some code over the wall to start a conversation? Let’s see if something substantial can be developed — only time will tell. At this point, FOSSology is a framework, not an enterprise solution.

I’m happy for the OSLO development team, who are dedicated followers of Richard Stallman and Eric Raymond. They deeply believe in the benefits of the bazaar and have finally transformed their philosophy into practice by releasing a FOSS project.

In the future, I hope to see HP selling, marketing, supporting, servicing and developing around FOSSology. I also hope corporations download FOSSology, because when they do, they’ll likely see the need for penetrating and comprehensive code analysis, great support, professional services, insightful reports and valuable audit trails. FOSSology, again, will produce more customers for Black Duck Software.

FOSSology does confirm how open source creeps into software markets as they mature. As a particular enterprise software market matures, it’s inevitable that the very basic technology involved is offered as an open source project (think JBOSS vs. BEA). What FOSSology shows is that Black Duck’s market is growing fast enough that the very basic, simplistic technology involved—literally step zero in what Black Duck does—is now available as open source.

On Monday, January 28th, Black Duck will introduce our second flagship in our product armada. The market will see how serious and thoughtful we are about code analysis and component reuse. They will also see that the Black Duck approach makes sense for companies who want to harness the power of open source and third party components, mitigate business risk and accelerate software development.

It’s a beautiful world out there with lots of room for new ideas and technologies. A bold beginning is important, but it’s only a start. I look forward to watching FOSSology develop over time and hearing companies’ thoughts on it.

1 comment:

Kurt Schroeder said...

I hope that FOSSology works for me, but you could drive a truck through the holes in the INSTALL instructions. Anyone new to PostgreSQL should get help.