In an upcoming InfoWorld feature, we explore a set of interrelated themes that Andy Singleton has identified under the rubric of "IT deflation": a global pool of talent, a surplus of software components (often freely available), and the research and communication skills necessary to translate these resources into IT successes.
We interviewed Andy for the story, and I talked to a number of others as well. One especially useful perspective was Brian Behlendorf's. As co-founder of both the Apache Software Foundation and then CollabNet, Brian observes the confluence of open source and outsourcing from a unique vantage point. He believes, and I agree, that we should embrace the reality that software projects are not separable from the people who work on them.
Behlendorf: "One of the key insights of open source is that there are good reasons to attach people to code. Apache isn't just a Web server, it's a Web server with a community around it. To treat software like Legos, without thinking about the context and the community, is a losing proposition. There was a lot of noise a couple of years ago about building corporate component libraries. But the problem is that by simply having that code there, you didn't have the context."
Of course it's no accident that the Internet is the soil in which all open-source projects are rooted.
Behlendorf: "We have a couple of customers who are using SourceCast [CollabNet's ASP-style collaborative infrastructure for software development] to coordinate worldwide development. A lot of enterprise tools have been designed for the LAN, not the WAN. The primary deployment protocol of [Rational] ClearCase is NFS, and it uses Unix permissions -- it just wasn't designed to be shared over a very wide area network. When you have a tool that's built for wide area use, the benefits are more than just seeing the day-to-day CVS commits. Participants get to know one another as individuals."
The hallmark of open source is transparency. Every aspect of a project -- the CVS repository, the issue tracker, the e-mail correspondence -- is visible to everybody. What works for global open-source projects can also work for globally distributed enterprise IT.
Behlendorf: "We started a project with Barclays Global Investors over a year ago. They have a development center in