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Licensing and support concerns in the open source community

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March 14, 2009

There are growing concerns in the open source community that has many Linux developers worried. And some system integrators feel the same way. Overall, technical support and licensing policies managing many open source projects are an afterthought, and this is exactly what has the Linux and open source community worried.

Some say it's time for some major changes in the way support and FOSS (free and open source software) licensing are managed in the enterprise segment.

Those are the preliminary results of a survey of Linux and open source developers at the Software Development West Software Development Conference held March 10 and 11.

Peter Vescuso, an executive vice president with Black Duck Software said at the conference "overall, there is a complex set of compliance, security and management problems that can surface when FOSS is used in the enterprise segment. However, these concerns seem to be secondary to getting the work done."

Vescuso added that many times, open source developers don't know the exact licensing conditions attached to the open source code they are using everyday, and without proper management policies in place they can easily run afoul of its licensing terms. He said the same goes with support for the software.

According to the survey, about 43.9 percent of developers said they were using more open source software than they were in March 2008, with about a third saying they were using about the same. About 12.2 percent said they were using a bit less.

Underscoring the widespread lack of management and licensing policies in place, the survey results showed that only 4 in 10 companies with more than 500 open source developers had active management policies.

But about 17.8 percent said their respective companies have some management policies and procedures in place for overseeing open source projects, and that another 4 to 5 percent had very clear and well-defined management policies in place.

Interestingly, while about 8 in 10 of the respondents said they used some form of open source software, a large majority said they either had "little awareness" or no opinion at all to offer on Microsoft and that company's position on open source software.

This took Vescuso by surprise, given that many of the Linux developers attending the show were committed in varying degrees to Microsoft's .Net initiative as it pertains to open source development.

Additionally, about 52.4 percent of conference attendants said they had issues or unanswered questions that relate to licensing open source software, while less than 21.8 percent were actually worried about providing tech support in any way.

The third biggest concern on the worry list surrounded overall open source security in the field.

On a brighter note, a little over 15.9 percent said they had no concerns or unresolved issues relating to open source licensing, support or security.

"With Microsoft talking about open source more and more, and being increasingly positive about it than it was even less than a year ago, some conference observers thought developers would have some opinions about that, but it sort of drew some blanks with them," Vescuso said.

When asked which programming language they most often used, 34.9 percent answered Java, with another 27.2 percent preferring C and C++, and another 26.9 percent chose C#.

As could be expected, Visual Basic finished fourth with less than 5.9 percent.

Source: Operating Systems Today.

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