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Open Source: A Way of Developing, Distributing, and Licensing Software

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Since the beginning of the software industry, nearly every software company in the world has followed the same business model: developed software by the company's own employees, closely held intellectual property, delivered software in binary format to clients, and licensed software to users to run on their own computers. Today, however, that model is being challenged by a new paradigm: open source. Developed and maintained by volunteers, distributed to users at no cost, and available in source code form, it is radically different from proprietary counterpart. Each of the new characteristics of the open source software forces organizations to develop new ways of thinking about how they procure, implement, test, and deploy software.

Accessible without cost, open source software is distributed to users under licensing terms different from commercial software, and created under different conditions from commercial software. Open source software developers take responsibility for the quality of the software towards their user base. This responsibility demands a new model of software procurement, one where the organization is an active participant in creating the complete software, rather than a passive recipient of what the vendor delivers. The new model demands new working methods and practices. In this article, we present on the open source software, the open source community, and the development practices. We explore the various benefits and risks the open source model brings to development practices, and present on possible strategies to support open source in your organization.

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