Lockheed Martin's newly open sourced social networking platform, Eureka Streams, has faced FUD when it should be received with open arms. IT decision-makers can learn important lessons from Lockheed Martin when evaluating whether to open-source an internal project.
Although usage of open source and open source-based software products continues to grow, enterprises' willingness to participate in open source projects is heading in the opposite direction. This fact was highlighted most recently in the 2010 Eclipse user survey, as the Eclipse Foundation's Ian Skerrett wrote:
In the survey, we asked a question about the corporate policies towards open source participation. In 2009 48 percent claimed they could contribute back to OSS but in 2010 only 35.4 percent claim they could contribute back. Conversely, 41 percent in 2010 claimed they use open source software but do not contribute back, but in 2009 it was 27.1 percent.
The wrong approach: Open-sourcing as a last resort
Considering this background, one would expect any enterprise that creates an open source project would want to promote active engagement with the open source community. But that's not always so, and sometimes for valid reasons.
Earlier this month, Vodafone announced the Wayfinder open source project. The project deposited a location-based services platform into the open source commons under a BSD license. However, as Wayfinder Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Vodafone, explains, "The operations of Wayfinder Systems has been discontinued since March 11 ... and after that Vodafone decided to contribute the software to the open source community."
In short, the project was open-sourced as a last resort. Although Vodafone didn't see any further business value in the code, at least it decided to offer the technology for others to benefit from. It's understandable, however, that other enterprises may not want to adopt or contribute to a project that the project's originators aren't going to continue developing for their own business needs.