RealTime IT News

Palamida Shows Secret Sauce

What does software vendor Palamida and a box of cereal have in common? Both list their ingredients so its consumers aren't left guessing what went into the product.

While it may lag well behind Corn Flakes in the disclosure race, Palamida is leading the rest of the commercial software industry with the disclosure Wednesday of all the third-party intellectual property (IP) found in its commercial software product.

On its Web site Wednesday, the company publicized the IP used in IP Amplifier 3.2. It also launched IPIngredients.org, a Web site that includes other open source projects and applications that publish their IP components.

"The big notion is one of transparency and of acknowledging the contributions of all these various authors and groups to our code and, simply put, making it easier for our customers to get an automatic answer to what's in there," he said.

The hope is to spark a movement among other vendors to come forward with the third-party IP found in their software. The hope is also to bring a level of transparency to the industry that enterprise customers need to make informed business and legal decisions about the software they use.

The first to join Palamida is open source IT management software vendor GroundWork, which intends to publish its IP ingredient list next week.

"From a buying-process standpoint, there's a certain amount of confusion, a certain amount of trepidation, involved with open source," said Ranga Rangachari, GroundWork CEO. "People look at it and say, 'What am I getting into?' I think IP transparency really goes a long way in removing some of the doubts in the customers' or channel partners' minds."

There are business reasons for Palamida's call to action, to be sure. The company's IP Amplifier is a software tool used by developers to discover whether any of the code they're producing touches on any known open source and commercial IP.

But knowing what's under the hood, so to speak, has been a cause for concern in recent times. While software developers and customers have kept IP in mind when developing and using software, it wasn't until the SCO Group filed a lawsuit against IBM that mainstream America took notice.

The Unix vendor sued IBM in March 2003 for allegedly misappropriating some of its licensed code to build up the Linux kernel.

While a court never ruled on the suit -- a jury trial is scheduled for next year -- SCO Group extended its threats to commercial Linux users, saying their use of the software might be grounds for legal liability.

Dana Gardner, principal analyst at research firm Interarbor Solutions, said the effort by Palamida is a good idea and is a bit surprised something like this wasn't brought up sooner. Knowing what's inside the code is a smart idea, he said, whether you're an ISV, hosting organization or an enterprise.

"It makes so much sense based on liability, exposure to lawsuits, copyright issues, where you can go in terms of indemnifying your own customers," he said. "It's something of a coming-of-age issue with open source software in general and really across all software."