Census for open-source apps kicks off

Project expects to offer the first detailed look at how businesses are using open-source software and how widespread it's become. (By Matthew Broersma of ZDNet UK)

A project aimed at delivering the first detailed survey of how open-source software is used in businesses is off the ground.

Open-source management company OpenLogic--backed by sponsors such as market researcher IDC and IT services giant Unisys--launched the Open Source Census this week.

The project, announced in December, is based around a tool, OSS Discovery, that scans systems for known open-source projects and anonymously submits the data to an OpenLogic database.

OpenLogic is hoping to tempt enterprise system administrators to participate by giving contributors access to detailed, though anonymized, reports summarizing their own open-source usage and providing comparisons with other, similar companies.

The idea is to combat a long-standing problem in the open-source world: the lack of information that accompanies the lack of proprietary licensing restrictions.

Currently, open-source adoption estimates from even the most reputable analyst firms rely on guesswork. Businesses often don't even know what open-source software is installed on their own systems, open-source specialists have claimed.

"The Open Source Census will provide the industry with much more granular information about where downloads are being installed, enabling both customers and IT solution providers to better understand the true impact that open-source software is having," IDC program director Matt Lawton said in a statement.

OpenLogic hopes to convince reluctant companies to contribute their data by allowing them to review the scan results before deciding whether to contribute them, OpenLogic said.

The company also has presented a list of well-established sponsors for the project, including IDC, CollabNet, Holme Roberts & Owen, Navica, Olliance Group, the Open Solutions Alliance, the Open Source Business Foundation, O'Reilly Media, and Unisys.

Also backing the project are Jim Jagielski, chairman of the Apache Software Foundation, and Tony Wasserman, director of the software-management program at Carnegie Mellon West.

OSS Discovery and the aggregate results are available from the Open Source Census Web site. The census is at an early stage, though: the site currently counts fewer than 100,000 open-source installations in all.

Matthew Broersma of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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