IBM to open source collaboration software?

IBM is looking to open source some of its developer collaboration software. Now it just needs to make sure it doesn't offend its future community.

InfoWorld is reporting that IBM may soon open source key parts of its Jazz collaboration software. Jazz comes from the Rational side of IBM's business, and is a development tool that facilitates code collaboration between developers. It's not the sexiest project out there, but arguably a useful one.

We might think about open-sourcing some of the very lowest layers (of the framework) so that the APIs (application programming interfaces) are available, and people could build on the kernel.

The reason? To drive pervasiveness of the Jazz platform.

Open source is just about the only way to get platform ubiquity in today's software world. IBM understands this better than most. What it might want to watch out for is its messaging around the move....

For example, when asked which components would be open sourced, IBM responded:

The source code management capability, and other parts that really do things will likely stay commercial.

In other words, if it's something worth buying, IBM will be keeping it closed.

This is fine as a strategy, but it won't sit well with the community it's hoping to attract. Who wants to be told that they're getting IBM's garbage? That's not really what IBM is saying here, but it needs to be careful about how it messages the move.

People don't join open-source development communities because they're lemmings who love open-source code no matter its finish. They join open-source communities where the code is quality and they can make a meaningful impact. IBM knows this. It just needs to message it correctly.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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