Online forum to handle corporate open-source questions

Open-source software is everywhere. But how does a large company -- from its executive team down to its IT staff -- figure out which open-source applications are right for its users and won't endanger the core business?

The Business Readiness Rating (BRR) open-source group says a little corporate social networking can provide information to help large companies start such projects.

OpenBRR.org was established last August by the Carnegie Mellon West Center for Open Source Investigation, O'Reilly Media, SpikeSource and Intel to create a standard model for rating the readiness of open-source software for corporate projects.

During the Linux/Open Source on Wall Street Show & Conference in New York last week, the group unveiled plans to create a corporate online community for IT staffers from about 40 companies to discuss open-source issues.

The idea, said Murugan Pal, co-founder of BRR and founder and chief technology officer of SpikeSource in Redwood City, Calif., is to provide IT managers with information that can help them start open-source projects. The BRR group plans to hold invitation-only forums within its online community that can be closely guarded to maintain security and confidentiality, Pal said.

There are already code collaboration initiatives for developers in the open-source community, he acknowledged, but "this is information collaboration for enterprises."

"We have been talking with CIOs for almost four years," Pal said. "They've been saying that they don't have places to get information on open-source."

"You're looking for that level of information that you can use to make a valid business decision," said George Pace, a systems architect at Prudential Financial Inc. in Newark, N.J. "It's like having a customer reference account for open-source."

Adam Braunstein, an analyst at Robert Frances Group, suggested that the new program may be more germane to IT professionals at small and midsize businesses.

Most large companies are already involved in some open-source projects, so the ground-level questions have been answered, Braunstein said. Big companies are "already there," he said. "It would be more useful for [small and midsize businesses] because they're not as aware of all this stuff."

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