How Open Do You Want to Be?

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As I've noted before, it's hard to get a good handle on open source use in enterprises. The Open Source Census may help change that:

The Open Source Census is a global, collaborative project to collect and share quantitative data on the use of open source software in enterprise. In short, that just means we want to count how many enterprise installations there are in the world for each open source package.

We realize that’s pretty ambitious, but we figure you have to think big to get big results. Of course we know that we can’t count every single installation of every open source package in every company, but we think we can get a big enough sample to make it representative.

Sounds good, so how does it work?

Companies can run an open source software tool called OSS Discovery to automatically scan a sampling of machines in their organization. It is easy for IT teams to automatically run OSS Discovery with their existing software distribution tools.

These OSS Discovery scans will gather completely anonymous data on which open source packages and versions are installed. The scan results can then be submitted to a repository on The Open Source Census website. Scan contributors can review the actual results of the scans before they decide whether to contribute the data. Contributors will be asked to provide some limited, non-identifying demographic data to enhance reporting of the results. Individuals can contribute scan data as well.

That anonymity will be crucial, of course: nobody wants to send intimate details about their IT setup into the public domain.

The obvious question is, Why bother to contribute?

Each enterprise that contributes scans to The Open Source Census will receive online access to a summary of their own open source usage, as well as comparisons to industry benchmarks. These benchmarks will help enterprises uncover opportunities to leverage the functionality, quality and cost savings associated with open source software.

If this takes off it could certainly provide some much-needed objective information early next year, when the first results should be out. However, it's not clear whether enough companies will be prepared to go to the trouble of participating: will you?

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