Welcome!

Eclipse Authors: Liz McMillan, XebiaLabs Blog, Ken Fogel, Sematext Blog, Marcin Warpechowski

Related Topics: Open Source Cloud, Eclipse, Apache, Cloud Security

Open Source Cloud: Article

Leveraging Open Source and Avoiding Risks in Small Tech Companies

The benefits of open source software usage can be realized and the risks can be managed at the same time

Today's software development is geared more towards building upon previous work and less about reinventing content from scratch. Resourceful software development organizations and developers use a combination of previously created code, commercial software, open source software, and their own creative content to produce the desired software product or functionality. Outsourced code can also be used, which can contain any of the above combination of software.

There are many good reasons for using off-the-shelf and especially open source software, with the greatest being its ability to speed up development and drive down costs without sacrificing quality. Almost all software groups knowingly, and in many cases unknowingly, use open source software to their advantage. Code reuse is possibly the biggest accelerator of innovation, as long as open source software is adopted and managed in a controlled fashion.

In today's world of open sourced, outsourced, easily searched and easily copied software it's difficult for companies to know what is in their code. Any time a product containing software changes hands there is a need to understand its composition, pedigree, ownership, and any open source licenses or obligations that restrict the rules around its use by new owners.

Given developers' focus on the technical aspects of their work and emphasis on innovation, obligations associated with use of third-party components can be easily compromised. Ideally, companies track open source and third-party code throughout the development life cycle. If that is not the case then, at the very least, they should know what is in their code before engaging in a transaction that includes a software component.

Examples of transactions involving software are: a launch of a product into the market; merger & acquisition (M&A) of companies with software development operations; and technology transfer between organizations whether they are commercial, academic or public. Any company that produces software as part of a software supply chain must be aware of what is in their code base.

Impact of Code Uncertainties

Any uncertainty around software ownership or license compliance can deter downstream users, reduce ability to create partnerships, and create litigation risk to the company and their customers. For smaller companies, Intellectual Property (IP) uncertainties can also delay or otherwise threaten closures in funding deals, affect product and company value, and negatively impact M&A activities.

IP uncertainties can affect the competitiveness of small technology companies due to indemnity demands from their clients. Technology companies need to understand the obligations associated with the software they are acquiring. Any uncertainties around third-party content in code can also stretch sales cycles. Lack of internal resources allocated to identification, tracking and maintaining open source and other third-party code in a project impacts smaller companies even more.

Along with licensing issues and IP uncertainties, organizations that use open source also need to be aware of security vulnerabilities. A number of public databases, such as the US National Vulnerability Database (NVD) or Carnegie Mellon University's Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) database, list known vulnerabilities associated with a large number of software packages. Without an accurate knowledge of what exists in the code base, it's not possible to consult these databases. Aspects such as known deficiencies, vulnerabilities, known security risks, and code pedigree all assume the existence of a software bill of materials. In a number of jurisdictions, another important aspect to consider before a software transaction takes place is whether the code includes encryption content or other content subject to export control - this is important to companies that do business internationally.

Solutions
The benefits of open source software usage can be realized and the risks can be managed at the same time. Ideally, a company using open source software should have a process in place to ensure that open source software is properly adopted and managed throughout the development cycle. Having such a process in place allows organizations to detect any licensing or IP uncertainties at the earliest possible stage during development, which reduces the time, effort, and cost associated with correcting the problem later down the road.

If a managed open source software adoption process spanning all stages of a development life cycle is not in place, there are other options available to smaller companies. Organizations are encouraged to audit their code base, or software in specific projects, regularly. Some may decide to examine third-party contents and the associated obligations just before a product is launched, or in anticipation of an M&A.

Internal Audits
The key is having an accurate view of all third-party content, including open source software, within the company. One option is to carry out an internal audit of the company code base for the presence of outside content and its licensing and other obligations. Unfortunately, manually auditing a typical project of 1000-5000 files is a resource- and time-consuming process. Automated tools can speed up the discovery stage considerably. For organizations that don't have the time, resources or expertise to carry out an assessment on their own, an external audit would be the fastest, most accurate and cost effective option.

External Audits
External audit groups ideally deploy experts on open source and software licensing that use automated tools, resulting in accurate assessment and fast turnaround. A large audit project requires significant interactions between the audit agency and the company personnel, typically representatives in the R&D group, resident legal or licensing office, and product managers. A large audit project requires an understanding of the company's outsourcing and open source adoption history, knowledge of the code portfolio in order to break it down into meaningful smaller subprojects, test runs, and consistent interactions between the audit team and the company representatives.

Smaller audit projects, however, can be streamlined and a number of overhead activities can be eliminated, resulting in a time and cost-efficient solution without compromising details or accuracy. An example would be a streamlined machine-assisted software assessment service. The automated scanning operation, through use of automated open source management tools, can provide a first-level report in hours. Expert review and verification of the machine-generated reports and final consolidation of the results into an executive report can take another few days depending on the size of the project.

The executive report delivered by an external audit agency is a high-level view of all third-party content, including open source software and the attributes associated with them. The audit report describes the software code audit environment, the process used, and the major findings, drawing attention to specific software packages, or even software files and their associated copyright and licenses. The audit report will highlight third-party code snippets that were "cut and pasted" into proprietary files and how that could affect the distribution or the commercial model. This is important for certain licenses such as those in the GPL (GNU Public License) family of OSS licenses, depending on how the public domain code or code snippet is utilized.

A report can significantly reduce the discovery and analysis effort required from the company being audited, allowing them to focus on making relevant decisions based on the knowledge of their code base.

Conclusion
Third-party code, including open source and commercially available software packages, can accelerate development, reduce time-to-market and decrease development costs. These advantages can be obtained without compromising quality, security or IP ownership. Especially for small companies, any uncertainty around code content and the obligations associated with third-party code can impact the ability of an organization to attract customers. Ambiguity around third-party code within a product stretches sales cycles, and reduces the value of products and impacts company valuations. For small organizations, an external audit of the code base can quickly, accurately and economically establish the composition the software and its associated obligations.

More Stories By Lacey Thoms

Lacey Thoms is a marketing specialist and blogger at Protecode, a provider of open source license management solutions. During her time at Protecode, Lacey has written many articles on open source software management. She has a background in marketing communications, digital advertising, and web design and development. Lacey has a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications from Carleton University.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
With an estimated 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020, several industries will begin to expand their capabilities for retaining end point data at the edge to better utilize the range of data types and sheer volume of M2M data generated by the Internet of Things. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and President of Infobright, will discuss the infrastructures businesses will need to implement to handle this explosion of data by providing specific use cases for filte...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Avere Systems, a leading provider of enterprise storage for the hybrid cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Avere delivers a more modern architectural approach to storage that doesn’t require the overprovisioning of storage capacity to achieve performance, overspending on expensive storage media for inactive data or the overbuilding of data centers ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies adopt disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advanced analytics, and DevO...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, Inc., the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Alert Logic, Inc., provides Security-as-a-Service for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructures, delivering deep security insight and continuous protection for customers at a lower cost than traditional security solutions. Ful...
Fortunately, meaningful and tangible business cases for IoT are plentiful in a broad array of industries and vertical markets. These range from simple warranty cost reduction for capital intensive assets, to minimizing downtime for vital business tools, to creating feedback loops improving product design, to improving and enhancing enterprise customer experiences. All of these business cases, which will be briefly explored in this session, hinge on cost effectively extracting relevant data from ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that iDevices®, the preeminent brand in the connected home industry, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. iDevices, the preeminent brand in the connected home industry, has a growing line of HomeKit-enabled products available at the largest retailers worldwide. Through the “Designed with iDevices” co-development program and its custom-built IoT Cloud Infrastruc...
There will be new vendors providing applications, middleware, and connected devices to support the thriving IoT ecosystem. This essentially means that electronic device manufacturers will also be in the software business. Many will be new to building embedded software or robust software. This creates an increased importance on software quality, particularly within the Industrial Internet of Things where business-critical applications are becoming dependent on products controlled by software. Qua...
As enterprises work to take advantage of Big Data technologies, they frequently become distracted by product-level decisions. In most new Big Data builds this approach is completely counter-productive: it presupposes tools that may not be a fit for development teams, forces IT to take on the burden of evaluating and maintaining unfamiliar technology, and represents a major up-front expense. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Warfield, CTO and Co-Founder of Coho Data, will dis...
The Quantified Economy represents the total global addressable market (TAM) for IoT that, according to a recent IDC report, will grow to an unprecedented $1.3 trillion by 2019. With this the third wave of the Internet-global proliferation of connected devices, appliances and sensors is poised to take off in 2016. In his session at @ThingsExpo, David McLauchlan, CEO and co-founder of Buddy Platform, will discuss how the ability to access and analyze the massive volume of streaming data from mil...
WebSocket is effectively a persistent and fat pipe that is compatible with a standard web infrastructure; a "TCP for the Web." If you think of WebSocket in this light, there are other more hugely interesting applications of WebSocket than just simply sending data to a browser. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Frank Greco, Director of Technology for Kaazing Corporation, will compare other modern web connectivity methods such as HTTP/2, HTTP Streaming, Server-Sent Events and new W3C event APIs ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
Eighty percent of a data scientist’s time is spent gathering and cleaning up data, and 80% of all data is unstructured and almost never analyzed. Cognitive computing, in combination with Big Data, is changing the equation by creating data reservoirs and using natural language processing to enable analysis of unstructured data sources. This is impacting every aspect of the analytics profession from how data is mined (and by whom) to how it is delivered. This is not some futuristic vision: it's ha...
Silver Spring Networks, Inc. (NYSE: SSNI) extended its Internet of Things technology platform with performance enhancements to Gen5 – its fifth generation critical infrastructure networking platform. Already delivering nearly 23 million devices on five continents as one of the leading networking providers in the market, Silver Spring announced it is doubling the maximum speed of its Gen5 network to up to 2.4 Mbps, increasing computational performance by 10x, supporting simultaneous mesh communic...
The cloud promises new levels of agility and cost-savings for Big Data, data warehousing and analytics. But it’s challenging to understand all the options – from IaaS and PaaS to newer services like HaaS (Hadoop as a Service) and BDaaS (Big Data as a Service). In her session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Hannah Smalltree, a director at Cazena, will provide an educational overview of emerging “as-a-service” options for Big Data in the cloud. This is critical background for IT and data profes...
With the Apple Watch making its way onto wrists all over the world, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a staple in the workplace. In fact, Forrester reported that 68 percent of technology and business decision-makers characterize wearables as a top priority for 2015. Recognizing their business value early on, FinancialForce.com was the first to bring ERP to wearables, helping streamline communication across front and back office functions. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kevin Roberts...
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...
One of the bewildering things about DevOps is integrating the massive toolchain including the dozens of new tools that seem to crop up every year. Part of DevOps is Continuous Delivery and having a complex toolchain can add additional integration and setup to your developer environment. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 18th Cloud Expo, Miko Matsumura, Chief Marketing Officer of Gradle Inc., will discuss which tools to use in a developer stack, how to provision the toolchain to minimize onboa...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 ad...
Join us at Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo 2016 – June 7-9 at the Javits Center in New York City and November 1-3 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – and deliver your unique message in a way that is striking and unforgettable by taking advantage of SYS-CON's unmatched high-impact, result-driven event / media packages.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...