HP is among the biggest backers of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in the world. As such they've developed their own best practices and tools to help their customers understand what Open Source licenses their applications contain as well as helping to maintain compliance with the terms of the various licenses.
In a set of new initiatives HP is now taking its experience and its open source license governance tools and open sourcing them in an effort to raise awareness and build a broader community for open source governance.
"Open Source is unavoidable today and a lot of developers are bringing it into the enterprise in some cases without a lot of visibility from other folks that would normally evaluate a contract," Karl Paetzel, worldwide marketing manager for HP's Open Source and Linux Organization, told InternetNews.com. "So instead of doing something under the radar we're helping to institute a resource to help make sure development is in line with company guidelines."
The new effort includes the FOSSology project which will help identify what open source licenses are being used and the FOSSBazaar community which will focus on best practices. Paetzel noted that among HP's own customers they've found that many typically have more open source applications in use then they thought and they also have more license obligations than they were aware of.
"We've got a lot of experience in FOSS governance and started to get more questions," Paetzel said . "Things like 'I don't know how much open source I have' or 'we don't know what our license obligations are'. So we started offering services based on our own experience and we've had some interesting engagements."
Paetzel noted that a key part of governance is first identifying what open source code is being used as well as identifying all the various licenses associated with it. As an example Paetzel commented that the OpenOffice.org (OOo) office suite primarily uses the LGPL license though there are numerous others as well including the MIT license.
"It's difficult for our legal folks to figure it all out so we have tools to automatically identify what's included," Paetzel said.
The FOSSology tools project Web site is the open source instance of HP's tools. The site itself was soft launched several weeks ago to allow HP's research partners access. Letting others work with HP's tools is a key goal of the effort. Paetzel explained that since the FOSSology project is about having an extensible framework, the fact that it's open will enable others to expand it in ways that HP itself had not thought off.