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HP gets an ology for FOSS

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Hewlett-Packard isn't known for software governance, but after years of sifting and sorting through its own systems for non-compliant code, the hardware vendor wants to share its experience with developers and foster construction of tools for tracking free and open source software (FOSS) permeating corporate systems.

To wit: HP has launched two projects and a service supporting developers using open source. The first is an initiative called FOSSology.

FOSSology contains a framework that comprises a code repository, a meta-data database, and an open-source license detection agent. The idea is developers will take the framework and add to it, and even come up with different uses for it. FOSSology is licensed under the General Public License 2.0.

HP has also launched the FOSSBazaar, an open-source community the company hopes will foster collaboration on an industry-wide level to address the legal, financial and security risks associated with the adoption of FOSS.

A workgroup within the Linux Foundation, FOSSBazaar’s founding membership roster includes Coverity, DLA Piper, Google, Novell, Olliance Group, OpenLogic, and SourceForge.

This big intellectual property (IP) contribution from HP is based on seven years of internal development, explained Karl Paetzel, worldwide marketing manager for HP's open source and Linux group.

"We touch open source in our organization from just about every angle imaginable," Paetzel told Register Developer. "We use open source code in our own IT infrastructure. We embed it in more than 200 products. We contribute a lot of IP to open source. We have employees who participate in open source projects. And we redistribute it through Red Hat SuSE.

“Seven years ago, we developed a model and established a review board to make sure we would be compliant and aware of just how much FOSS we were using. Along the way, we developed tools to automate this stuff."

Commenting on the ability of developers to build detection systems using FOSSology, Paetzel said: "We made sure that the framework could be used by other folks to write their own agents. We expect people to find ways to analyze open source software that we haven't thought of."

The idea is to develop a community of people interested in learning about FOSS governance, deployment, policies, processes, and best practices as part of an overall enterprise IT plan, Paetzel said.

The two initiatives received star endorsement from Eben Moglen, founding director of the Software Freedom Law Center. "Resources like those HP announced today can help businesses understand how to make using free and open source software in a compliant manner very simple, effective and profitable," he said in a statement.

The news was even welcomed by Black Duck founder Doug Levin, a direct competitor in this space. "I'm excited about HP's entrance into this market," Levin said. "It's a great company with great IP. But the FOSSology project requires a lot more development, and I think they're going to find it very challenging to introduce into the enterprise."

Along with the two open source initiatives, HP unveiled its new Open Source Heath Check, a set of commercially available services designed to complement the free FOSSology offering.®

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