was titled "IBM Helps Drive Open Source Development." Part of
IBM's help in driving development is the contribution of "more than 30"
projects to SourceForge.net. The press release was somewhat vague on
exactly what was contributed - the only projects actually listed were the
Jikes Java compiler and "Life Science Identifier,", which somehow scans
networks for "biologically significant data." The latter project is not
particularly active; its mailing list
shows all of three messages last December - and none
A look at this jikes-dev message gives a
rather less rosy view of the change than the press release does:
As quite a few of you know by now, IBM has decided to pull out of
the project hosting space. As a result the developerWorks/Open
Source Server (aka dw/oss) where we and a number of other projects
have been hosted for the last several years is being shutdown. IBM
negotiated with SourceForge.net to migrate a number of projects
from dw/oss to sf.net's hosting environment, as the hands down #1
most popular project on dw/oss, Jikes was on that list of projects.
So it seems that IBM, rather than "driving open source development" through
the contribution of various projects, is actually driving open source
development away and into the arms of SourceForge which, despite some rosy
PR of its own, has not signed up a whole lot of high-profile projects
recently. We asked IBM why this move was being done now, and got this
When IBM launched developerWorks in 1999, IBM wanted to start a
community for open source developers. Over the past few years, as
open source has gained momentum, more appropriate hosts for open
source projects have come to fruition - Eclipse, Apache,
Sourceforge.net for example.
We also asked IBM for a full list of projects which had been moved.
Interestingly, no such list appears to exist; at least, IBM's
representative could not give us one. We did get a partial list, however;
it includes, beyond Jikes and LSI:
- The Abstract
Machine Test Utility, a testing tool for security certification
- Performance Inspector,
a mechanism for collecting and analyzing trace data.
- The UDDI4J
class library, last updated in September, 2003.
- JTOpen, described as
"a library of Java classes supporting the client/server and
internet programming models to an iSeries or AS/400 server."
Unlike these high-profile projects, the other 24 or so were too obscure to
make IBM's list.
The perception that IBM is simply dumping a set of projects which have lost
its interest is confirmed by going back to the jikes-dev posting:
We've had 240,548 downloads from the dw/oss server in the 1061 days
we've been there - as of now() at least... not a bad run for a
project that has been pretty much abandoned by the company for the
last few years, and has survived purely on the scraps of free time
feed to it by a small handfull of folks.
So IBM's donation isn't quite all that the hype would suggest. The company
is guilty of walking away from a handful of projects, then trying to use PR
to make lemonade out of the whole thing. In other words, IBM is behaving
like a corporation.
There is nothing particularly new here; companies have abandoned
development projects since the beginning. The free software method has
brought an interesting and worthwhile change, however. In the past,
abandoned projects would simply disappear from sight, and any code would
simply stagnate on a backup tape somewhere. A company which is aware of
free software, however, can make the choice to toss its abandonware into
the community. If there is anything useful in that code, somebody will
pick it up and run with it. And that can only be a good thing.
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