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The Open Source Way

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DTE Energy in Detroit, a diversified $9 billion energy company that includes Detroit Edison, Michigan Consolidated Gas Company and other energy companies, is undertaking an experiment: Its software developers are using open source techniques to develop reusable code. Lynne Ellyn, senior vice president and CIO of DTE Energy, and a senior consultant with the Cutter Consortium in Arlington, Mass., told Executive Editor Allan Alter how far her company has gone down the open source path, and what's required to make it work.

CIO Insight: What's the difference between open source software and open source methods?

Ellyn: Open source software is any software product offered under the Open Source Foundation charter—Apache, Linux and so on. Open source methods allow people to voluntarily contribute their software to general purpose use, or a particular audience. In the open source community, people who have established themselves as experts in software review those contributions for quality, fit and usability. Then, based on the merits of the software, the experts accept, reject or suggest changes. So the method requires enthusiastic individuals who will contribute their own work, and volunteer experts to review them. It's a very good example of a meritocracy; that's essentially the heart and soul of any open source work.

Are these the kinds of practices you have in place at DTE Energy?

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