Click here to close now.




















Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Kevin Jackson, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Esmeralda Swartz

Related Topics: Open Source Cloud, Java IoT, Linux Containers, Eclipse, Apache, OpenStack Journal

Open Source Cloud: Article

The Science and Art of Open Source Software License Management

Protect your organization from risk while ensuring continuous innovation

The industrial revolution continues - starting with the steam engines of the 18th century, continuing with large-scale steel production, oil exploitation, electrical and photographic innovations of the 19th century, and moving on to the transportation, communications, computation and electronics of the 20th century. It is still early in the 21st century, but we can safely say software has become the engine that feeds the industrial, economic, medical, and gradually the political issues of our existence. The only way to satisfy the demand for the volume and complexity of the software that is needed to keep our world moving is to maximally share and reuse code within and across application domains.

Open Source Software (OSS) is the epitome of code reuse, enabling complex applications to be realized rapidly, economically and safely. Probably the largest collaborative endeavor in human kind to date, open source feeds on itself. Independent studies have converged on the fact that open source is everywhere, and depending on the source of the study, 80-100% of all software organizations now use open source software in their products or operations.

There is an implicit understanding that good developers do not write code from scratch any more. Rather, they can adapt a piece of existing code to furnish a desired function. Use of off-the-shelf code such as OSS brings the usual due diligence and precautions associated with deployment of any third-party content within an organization. The pedigree of the code, its ownership attributes, and the rules around the use of open source code (typically captured in a license document) govern its introduction within an organization and its suitability for an end-target use.

Open source software brings with it an unusual set of ownership issues. Unlike other commodities, open source code can be brought into an organization freely. While anything that is purchased in a transaction has implied ownership, ownership and usage of OSS can be confusing to many developers or organizations. Generally, the copyright ownership of OSS always stays with the creator of the open source code. The OSS copyright owner creates and communicates a license that explicitly sets out the rules governing the use of that open source software.

Continuous Versus One-Time OSS Assessment
Detecting and complying with OSS code in a software project has become an important part of a quality and governance process in organizations that create or consume software.

Product quality considerations and standards require that a recorded knowledge of all the third-party components within a product be maintained at all times. These records should also include attributes such as pedigree, defect history and improvements over time, potential vulnerabilities, and code propagation within the organization. These records can be best maintained, not by a one-time examination of the organization's code portfolio, but through an ongoing and structured third-party and open source software adoption process. The practice of creating and updating the records automatically as development proceeds ensures ongoing compliance with the requirements of a quality organization.

As opposed to the continuous recordkeeping requirements of a quality process, a software audit is a one-time activity targeted at providing insight into the intellectual property (IP) ownership or IP rights, in anticipation of a transaction such as an M&A or a product shipment to market.

Open source software audits, generally carried out by an external body, involves an examination of a software portfolio in order to detect OSS and third-party code within that portfolio. The result of the audit is a report which highlights open source and third party components and their attributes. At a high level, statistics such as the names of any public-domain software packages and whether they are used in a modified or unmodified format, composition of the license mix, copyrights, vulnerabilities, languages, and open source lines of code are provided. At a more detailed level, specific open source or proprietary packages that were discovered, their license attributes, links to resources that contain additional information, text of the licenses, copyrights, and know security vulnerabilities associated with the components of the software are provided.

An audit process would highlight code that is specifically copyrighted, but for which no license is offered or mentioned. These cases are one of the challenging aspects in establishing IP ownership, as the copyright owner must be contacted for explicit permission to use their code. Also, any code that is not in the public domain and has no identifying information, such as headers, must be highlighted as requiring further investigation.

The Science: Detecting Third-Party Packages in a Portfolio
Once all OSS and other third-party packages are identified and a software Bill of Materials (BoM) is available, then the list can be examined for properties such as licenses, known deficiencies, security vulnerabilities, various obligations associated with their use, and functions such as encryption that could restrict its use in certain markets.

A number of methods can be used to identify open source and commercial software within a software portfolio. A short list of these methods will include the following.

  • Records by developers: Any records maintained by developers and development managers will assist the process.
  • Information held within a file, or folder: A quality-development practice is to include a header on every file that holds information about the software package, organization, copyright and license associated with the file or the package. Often binaries also include identifying information, such as copyright owner, project name, and the license pointers within the file. Another quality practice is to include licensing or other information about a software package within the package.
  • File/folder names and paths: These could be additional indicators of the presence of a known public domain or commercial software.
  • Similarity with public-domain software: Any similarity between a software file, or portions of a software file, and a file in public domain could accurately indicate the presence of OSS in a portfolio. A full-file code similarity to a public domain file would indicate unmodified use of the OSS software. A partial code match would indicate use of OSS in a modified form. This is significant because many open source licenses trigger different obligations based on how the file is used.

There are hundreds of thousands of public-domain projects accessible to developers. When you consider that an OSS project can have multiple versions in the public domain and each package can consist of anything between two and 200,000 files, we gain an appreciation for the task involved in this method. Manual identification of code similarity to millions of files is obviously impractical. Only intelligent automated solutions can go through a software portfolio and examine similarity between each and every file in that portfolio and software files in public domain.

The Art: Reading Between the Lines
The methods described above could theoretically provide insight into composition of a code portfolio. However, those methods alone are not sufficient to reveal an accurate view of the code composition.

  • Manual records are the least reliable method as third-party content is often brought into a project without registering a record. Also, in today's typical development environment it is very difficult to guarantee access to the original developer's piece of software.
  • File header information is not necessarily an accurate representation of the file pedigree and license. These can be changed by a developer, or automatically as in Linux kernel header files that were used in Android packages.
  • Almost all OSS uses OSS. For example, there are more than 65,000 instances of commons.logging (a popular Apache logging layer), and more than 50,000 instances each of Log4j (another Apache logging utility for Java) and JUnit (a popular testing framework for Java) code in various public-domain projects. This leads to OSS project and license nesting complexities and contributes to challenges in correctly identifying the OSS packages within a portfolio. It is critical to detect the genesis OSS project and the version of the original and framing OSS projects. Practical examples of this challenge are:
    • Open source packages that use other OSS but do not maintain or propagate the original OSS license. This action may not be legitimate depending on the original OSS license and the license of the derived OSS package and can lead to erroneous conclusions about the quality as well as usage obligations associated with the organization's software.
    • Open source packages that change the license in subsequent versions such as moving from one version of a license. For example, GPLv2 to GPLv3 on a new release of the OSS project or moving from one license to another compatible license.
    • Projects where the OSS file or folder name is modified. This happens regularly on libraries (those with .jar or .bin extensions), and less frequently on source code files.
    • Seemingly known but non-existent licenses mentioned within a file or folder. A prime example is an OSS package that claims it's released under GPL. There is no GPL, only versioned GPL such as GPL v1, v2 licenses are available.

The art of OSS audit activity and license management relies on a clear understanding of the open source software community, open source packages, open source licenses, and development practices. This understanding comes with both academic knowledge as well as experience in scanning, reviewing, and auditing hundreds of software portfolios. Automated solutions that combine the science of scanning and license management with empirical methods that embody the art of open source package detection and license discovery can significantly speed up the discovery and management process and minimize, although not eliminate, the human involvement factor.

Conclusion
Rapid software development is necessary for sustaining the pace of innovation needed in today's world and the use of OSS is perhaps the best way to maintain this pace. While most organizations are now using open source to their advantage, they must avoid potential complications that OSS license obligations present. The complexity that OSS licenses present makes it almost impossible to manage obligations manually. This is where automated solutions come in. Conducting a one-time audit, or preferably, having a continuous process in place to automatically detect OSS licenses and their obligations is the best way to protect your organization from risk while ensuring continuous innovation.

More Stories By Kamyar Emami

Kamyar Emami has 20+ years of international technology and business experience in transportation, telecommunications, and the oil and gas industries. He is currently the COO of Protecode (www.protecode.com), and oversees the development of the company’s open source license management tools.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
As more and more data is generated from a variety of connected devices, the need to get insights from this data and predict future behavior and trends is increasingly essential for businesses. Real-time stream processing is needed in a variety of different industries such as Manufacturing, Oil and Gas, Automobile, Finance, Online Retail, Smart Grids, and Healthcare. Azure Stream Analytics is a fully managed distributed stream computation service that provides low latency, scalable processing of streaming data in the cloud with an enterprise grade SLA. It features built-in integration with Azur...
A producer of the first smartphones and tablets, presenter Lee M. Williams will talk about how he is now applying his experience in mobile technology to the design and development of the next generation of Environmental and Sustainability Services at ETwater. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lee Williams, COO of ETwater, will talk about how he is now applying his experience in mobile technology to the design and development of the next generation of Environmental and Sustainability Services at ETwater.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Micron Technology, Inc., a global leader in advanced semiconductor systems, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Micron’s broad portfolio of high-performance memory technologies – including DRAM, NAND and NOR Flash – is the basis for solid state drives, modules, multichip packages and other system solutions. Backed by more than 35 years of technology leadership, Micron's memory solutions enable the world's most innovative computing, consumer,...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies leverage disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advanced analytics, and DevOps to advance innovation and increase agility. Specializing in designing, imple...
While many app developers are comfortable building apps for the smartphone, there is a whole new world out there. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Narayan Sainaney, Co-founder and CTO of Mojio, will discuss how the business case for connected car apps is growing and, with open platform companies having already done the heavy lifting, there really is no barrier to entry.
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
As more intelligent IoT applications shift into gear, they’re merging into the ever-increasing traffic flow of the Internet. It won’t be long before we experience bottlenecks, as IoT traffic peaks during rush hours. Organizations that are unprepared will find themselves by the side of the road unable to cross back into the fast lane. As billions of new devices begin to communicate and exchange data – will your infrastructure be scalable enough to handle this new interconnected world?
WebRTC has had a real tough three or four years, and so have those working with it. Only a few short years ago, the development world were excited about WebRTC and proclaiming how awesome it was. You might have played with the technology a couple of years ago, only to find the extra infrastructure requirements were painful to implement and poorly documented. This probably left a bitter taste in your mouth, especially when things went wrong.
Through WebRTC, audio and video communications are being embedded more easily than ever into applications, helping carriers, enterprises and independent software vendors deliver greater functionality to their end users. With today’s business world increasingly focused on outcomes, users’ growing calls for ease of use, and businesses craving smarter, tighter integration, what’s the next step in delivering a richer, more immersive experience? That richer, more fully integrated experience comes about through a Communications Platform as a Service which allows for messaging, screen sharing, video...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IceWarp will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IceWarp, the leader of cloud and on-premise messaging, delivers secured email, chat, documents, conferencing and collaboration to today's mobile workforce, all in one unified interface
The Internet of Things (IoT) is about the digitization of physical assets including sensors, devices, machines, gateways, and the network. It creates possibilities for significant value creation and new revenue generating business models via data democratization and ubiquitous analytics across IoT networks. The explosion of data in all forms in IoT requires a more robust and broader lens in order to enable smarter timely actions and better outcomes. Business operations become the key driver of IoT applications and projects. Business operations, IT, and data scientists need advanced analytics t...
With the proliferation of connected devices underpinning new Internet of Things systems, Brandon Schulz, Director of Luxoft IoT – Retail, will be looking at the transformation of the retail customer experience in brick and mortar stores in his session at @ThingsExpo. Questions he will address include: Will beacons drop to the wayside like QR codes, or be a proximity-based profit driver? How will the customer experience change in stores of all types when everything can be instrumented and analyzed? As an area of investment, how might a retail company move towards an innovation methodolo...
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome,” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
Consumer IoT applications provide data about the user that just doesn’t exist in traditional PC or mobile web applications. This rich data, or “context,” enables the highly personalized consumer experiences that characterize many consumer IoT apps. This same data is also providing brands with unprecedented insight into how their connected products are being used, while, at the same time, powering highly targeted engagement and marketing opportunities. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nathan Treloar, President and COO of Bebaio, will explore examples of brands transforming their businesses by t...
Akana has announced the availability of the new Akana Healthcare Solution. The API-driven solution helps healthcare organizations accelerate their transition to being secure, digitally interoperable businesses. It leverages the Health Level Seven International Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (HL7 FHIR) standard to enable broader business use of medical data. Akana developed the Healthcare Solution in response to healthcare businesses that want to increase electronic, multi-device access to health records while reducing operating costs and complying with government regulations.
For IoT to grow as quickly as analyst firms’ project, a lot is going to fall on developers to quickly bring applications to market. But the lack of a standard development platform threatens to slow growth and make application development more time consuming and costly, much like we’ve seen in the mobile space. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Weiner, Product Manager of the Omega DevCloud with KORE Telematics Inc., discussed the evolving requirements for developers as IoT matures and conducted a live demonstration of how quickly application development can happen when the need to comply wit...
The Internet of Everything (IoE) brings together people, process, data and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before – transforming information into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom. IoE creates new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented opportunities to improve business and government operations, decision making and mission support capabilities.
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems, described how to revolutionize your archit...
MuleSoft has announced the findings of its 2015 Connectivity Benchmark Report on the adoption and business impact of APIs. The findings suggest traditional businesses are quickly evolving into "composable enterprises" built out of hundreds of connected software services, applications and devices. Most are embracing the Internet of Things (IoT) and microservices technologies like Docker. A majority are integrating wearables, like smart watches, and more than half plan to generate revenue with APIs within the next year.
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Opening Keynote at 16th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, d...