It has been three and a half years since Software Tech News addressed the topic of Open Source Software (OSS). In that time, as Kane McLean writes in his article, “Military Open Source Community Growing”, its use in the Department of Defense (DoD) has grown significantly, widely adopted and implemented in a variety of systems.
While the rate of change in technology grows exponentially, DoD needs to continue to develop new capabilities ever faster. Gone forever are the days of a single contractor developing a system from scratch, uniquely matched to the required application. The need for commonality across platforms, interoperability between networks and shared functionality across organizations drive reusing what exists rather than reinventing the same basic constructs. Matthew Kennedy discusses the factors one should consider in his article, “Evaluating Open Source Software”.
As agencies look for ways to cut development costs while reducing development time the availability of open source components becomes more than just an attractive alternative. But simply downloading a publicly available component and including it in a project can lead to significant repercussions.
Dr. David A. Wheeler points out in his article, “Open Source Software (OSS) is Commercial”, it is in fact a commercial product, often developed to make a profit. John Scott, Dr. Wheeler, Mark Lucas and J.C. Herz discuss licensing and intellectual property issues in “Running Open Technology Development Projects”. Lawrence Rosen explains many of the issues concerning copyrights and patents in his article, “Implementing Open Standards in Open Source”.
Failure to recognize these technical and legal implications can impact the long term usability of a developed product. In the last three years of OSS use in the DoD there have been many lessons learned, one of them being that there are still challenges ahead.