Welcome!

Eclipse Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, David H Deans, JP Morgenthal

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
SYS-CON Events announced today that Daiya Industry will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Daiya Industry specializes in orthotic support systems and assistive devices with pneumatic artificial muscles in order to contribute to an extended healthy life expectancy. For more information, please visit https://www.daiyak...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Fusic will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Fusic Co. provides mocks as virtual IoT devices. You can customize mocks, and get any amount of data at any time in your test. For more information, visit https://fusic.co.jp/english/.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Keisoku Research Consultant Co. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Keisoku Research Consultant, Co. offers research and consulting in a wide range of civil engineering-related fields from information construction to preservation of cultural properties. For more information, vi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MIRAI Inc. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MIRAI Inc. are IT consultants from the public sector whose mission is to solve social issues by technology and innovation and to create a meaningful future for people.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interface Corporation will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Interface Corporation is a company developing, manufacturing and marketing high quality and wide variety of industrial computers and interface modules such as PCIs and PCI express. For more information, visit http://www.i...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ryobi Systems will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Ryobi Systems Co., Ltd., as an information service company, specialized in business support for local governments and medical industry. We are challenging to achive the precision farming with AI. For more information, visit http:...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Enroute Lab will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Enroute Lab is an industrial design, research and development company of unmanned robotic vehicle system. For more information, please visit http://elab.co.jp/.
Elon Musk is among the notable industry figures who worries about the power of AI to destroy rather than help society. Mark Zuckerberg, on the other hand, embraces all that is going on. AI is most powerful when deployed across the vast networks being built for Internets of Things in the manufacturing, transportation and logistics, retail, healthcare, government and other sectors. Is AI transforming IoT for the good or the bad? Do we need to worry about its potential destructive power? Or will we...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Nihon Micron will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Nihon Micron Co., Ltd. strives for technological innovation to establish high-density, high-precision processing technology for providing printed circuit board and metal mount RFID tags used for communication devices. For more inf...
SYS-CON Events announced today that mruby Forum will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. mruby is the lightweight implementation of the Ruby language. We introduce mruby and the mruby IoT framework that enhances development productivity. For more information, visit http://forum.mruby.org/.
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Greg Gorman is the Director, IoT Developer Ecosystem, Watson IoT, will provide a short tutorial on Node-RED, a Node.js-based programming tool for wiring together hardware devices, APIs and online services in new and interesting ways. It provides a browser-based editor that makes it easy to wire together flows using a wide range of nodes in the palette that can be deployed to its runtime in a single-click. There is a large library of contributed nodes that help so...
DevOps at Cloud Expo – being held October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's largest enterprises – and delivering real r...
While some developers care passionately about how data centers and clouds are architected, for most, it is only the end result that matters. To the majority of companies, technology exists to solve a business problem, and only delivers value when it is solving that problem. 2017 brings the mainstream adoption of containers for production workloads. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ben McCormack, VP of Operations at Evernote, will discuss how data centers of the future will be managed, how th...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks, that helps your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. As a premier telecommunications provider, Massive Networks is headquartered out of Louisville, Colorado. With years of experience under their belt, their team of...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Mobile Create USA will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Mobile Create USA Inc. is an MVNO-based business model that uses portable communication devices and cellular-based infrastructure in the development, sales, operation and mobile communications systems incorporating GPS capabi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that TMC has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo and Big Data at Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Global buyers rely on TMC’s content-driven marketplaces to make purchase decisions and navigate markets. Learn how we can help you reach your marketing goals.
There is huge complexity in implementing a successful digital business that requires efficient on-premise and cloud back-end infrastructure, IT and Internet of Things (IoT) data, analytics, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Digital Applications. In the data center alone, there are physical and virtual infrastructures, multiple operating systems, multiple applications and new and emerging business and technological paradigms such as cloud computing and XaaS. And then there are pe...
Real IoT production deployments running at scale are collecting sensor data from hundreds / thousands / millions of devices. The goal is to take business-critical actions on the real-time data and find insights from stored datasets. In his session at @ThingsExpo, John Walicki, Watson IoT Developer Advocate at IBM Cloud, will provide a fast-paced developer journey that follows the IoT sensor data from generation, to edge gateway, to edge analytics, to encryption, to the IBM Bluemix cloud, to Wa...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend 21st Cloud Expo October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
SYS-CON Events announced today that App2Cloud will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct. 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. App2Cloud is an online Platform, specializing in migrating legacy applications to any Cloud Providers (AWS, Azure, Google Cloud).