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Peer recognition is a strong motivator for many open source coders, so having to work under a pseudonym is a big disincentive, says Zorro. "We find it unfair because developers value the recognition [of participating in open source] they say, look at that Ross Mason [Mule project founder and MuleSource chief technology officer], he's smart."

When changes to the code are not returned, projects like Mule must rely on part-time volunteers and a handful of paid employees to fill the technology gaps in the portfolio, over time. With a few decent code donations, common issues could be fixed relatively quickly to everyone's benefit. The original Mule project was, after all, founded by Mason in 2003 to offset the "donkey work" associated with internal systems integration, and to spread the load by involving the community.

MuleSource has an ambitious roadmap to complete in the coming months and is looking to developers inside its customer organizations for support. The Mule integrated development environment is scheduled for May, and Mule 2.0 for the Enterprise, featuring JDBC connectors, is scheduled in the third quarter. Further out - and here’s where it gets tricky based on the level of community participation - is certification, documentation and completion of Saturn, the MuleSource business activity monitoring software that's in beta.

“The reason it’s in beta is because we need guys like you to pick up the beta and tell us what you want from the tool," Mason told MuleCon attendees. “The vision for '08 is to build and bring all these things together.”

Taking from the whole

The irony is that organizations increase their maintenance costs when they take open source code from projects like Mule in-house and add their own code. In all but a few areas companies are duplicating efforts made elsewhere, and wasting time and effort in repeating boring infrastructure programming, under the illusion they are adding competitive advantage. "There's so much duplicate effort," Zorro said, echoing Red Hat's Whitehurst, who claimed last month that "billions" of dollars are wasted each year in internal, non-commercial software development that re-invents the wheel.

So let's put down the hippie peace pipe and get real. Banks and retailers participating in projects, and sharing code for a common good – are you serious? Yes, we are - and here's an example.

The Advanced Message Queuing Protocol was donated a few years ago by the core development team of JP Morgan Chase with Iona Technologies and Red Hat. It has since received backing from rivals including Credit Suisse, Deutsche Börse Systems and Goldman Sachs. AMQP was donated "in response to internal requirements, market demand and partners' electronic trading needs".

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