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"... A history of IBM’s open-source involvement and strategy IBM has embraced both the concept and the reality of open-source software (OSS). While this may seem surprising for a corporation with a large traditional software business, a path has been pursued allowing the maintenance—indeed, the enhanceme ..."
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A history of IBM’s open-source involvement and strategy IBM has embraced both the concept and the reality of open-source software (OSS). While this may seem surprising for a corporation with a large traditional software business, a path has been pursued allowing the maintenance—indeed, the enhancement—of existing business while deriving benefits from OSS, making significant contributions to several OSS projects, and initiating new ones. We describe some of the considerations which led to this approach, as well as some of the issues that impinge on its execution. The origins and principles of free software and of open-source 1 software (OSS) may lead the casual observer to conclude that they are a world apart from—if not opposed to—more traditional software development, use, and evolution. An alternative view sees OSS as essentially an alternative business model which provides types of flexibility, opportunity, and benefits different than those provided by the conventional model. IBM was among the earliest of the major computer companies to embrace opensource software and was probably the first to realize that doing so could be consistent with our business goals. Indeed, a problem with which IBM has long contended is that of how to provide to our customers internally developed software that was not planned to be a product, without the inevitable support and product issues. IBM’s business strategy has long been centered around open standards, both for hardware and software, wherever that is feasible and practical, and IBM has taken an active role in the development of standards related to the company’s business. Early on, it was perceived that OSS offered interesting opportunities with respect to these activities, and that as a result, there were many reasons to investigate how best to integrate opensource software with our business. BEGINNINGS In December of 1998, an effort was first made to understand the broad strategic implications for IBM of open-source software. At that point, it was clear that the OSS phenomenon was taking hold in a substantial way. Most visibly, Linux* * was starting to appear widely in the media, but more importantly, parts of our customer organizations were starting to pay attention, with Linux reportedly being used in some cases without the involvement or blessing of corporate IT organizations. Quickly,