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Managing Open Source Usage in Off-Shore, Outsourced Development: Best Practices - page 2

The Opportunities and Challenges of Open Source Software

  • June 30, 2005
  • By Kevin Bedell

Outsourcers and off-shore development shops understand the opportunities provided by open source as well as the developers in your company do. (In fact, given their need to drive down development costs, many use open source even more than traditional software development operations). These service providers are very likely to be using open source as part of their overall development processes. So how do you protect yourself and ensure they don't stick you with a compliance problem that you'll have to deal with later?

The first, and arguably the most important, best practice you need to adopt is to begin discussions on open source code as part of the initial contract negotiations. Procurement should insist that language addressing open source usage appear in your contract with the development partner. Asking for indemnification from damages due to open source code appearing in their deliverables is appropriate.

It's also important that you specify to the development partner what an appropriate usage of open source is. Asking them to not use any open source isn't a good idea; it would drive their development costs up significantly (as well as pushing out your delivery schedule). The balance you want to strike is to encourage the responsible usage of open source wherever you can (in order to speed delivery and reduce cost) while making sure they stay away from open source licenses that can cause you problems.

Ideally, this means having your legal team approve certain open source licenses for usage and then allowing the development partner the leeway to decide which open source components make the most sense to use based on application requirements.

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