Can Community-Source Get Apps Built In A Recession?

Community source development can save money and reduce vendor lock-in, by combining the best of the traditional and open-source development models

The concept of community-source development is catching on with enterprise organisations, both inside and outside of corporate and organisational walls for its ability to cut costs, increase collaboration and avoid vendor lock-in.

Community source is a hybrid development model that blends elements of directed development – in the classic sense of an organisation employing staff and resources to work on a project – and the openness of traditional open source such as Apache, according to Brad Wheeler, vice president for information technology, CIO and professor of information systems at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business.

The Gartner market research firm claims some responsibility for coining the term “community source.” In one of the company’s reports, Gartner analyst Brian Prentice said community source occurs “when users decide to band together to create their own open-source solutions without the participation of any external vendor. It’s an emerging phenomenon, particularly in the public sector.”

Brian Behlendorf, a founding member of the Apache Software Foundation and prominent open-source software community leader, said, “Community source is where you identify a common need across a group of entities, and you put those entities together as peers to drive development, and they all go off and use the product. It’s about forging an open-source development community out of a latent set of interests.”

Cost-Cutting Community

That is exactly the goal of the Collaborative Software Initiative, or CSI, which brings together like-minded companies to build software applications at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods. CSI officials said the company introduces a market-changing process that applies open-source methodologies to building collaboratively developed software.

Stuart Cohen, CEO of CSI, believes in the power of collaboration. “We collaborate with our customers in every step of the application life cycle, from initial vision through planning and design to development and maintenance,” he said. “Our belief is the power of collaboration can reduce cost, mitigate risk, speed development and infuse new ideas to solve complex issues.”

Behlendorf, who serves as an adviser to CSI, said he is enthusiastic about the company “because I saw open-source software going beyond things like the database and tools to reach this critical point where you can bring different companies with different agendas together to focus on the more immediate need of software development and community. This is how open-source software gets built and how it becomes a united project.”

Behlendorf said he does not see any other company doing “a hybrid of a services company and a product company” and basing it on open source and collaborative development. “IBM comes closest,” he said.

CSI is working to advance community sourcing as an application development model, according to Cohen. He said the idea for the company came to him about two and a half to three years ago when he was the CEO of OSDL (Open Source Development Labs), which later merged with the Free Standards Group to form the Linux Foundation.