The Community Within

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2009-02-24 Print this article Print


The Community Within

The community-source concept also is gaining favor within major corporations for their own internal use.

Indeed, IBM has been employing community-source principles for some years now with positive results. IBM officials said its community-source efforts have led to improvements in development time of as much as 30 percent for some projects.

IBM officials said community source provides an infrastructure for nurturing componentization and facilitating reuse of those components.

There has been steady growth in projects and members since the inception of community source at IBM in 2002, although the efforts did not launch in earnest until a couple of years later. IBM officials said reuse metrics of high-value projects demonstrate that the value gained far outweighs the cost burden to facilitate them. And there has been a strong interest by IBM's customers wanting to re-create a similar environment, according to company officials.

IBM has used the community-source model to bring together developers from across the company's different brands and geographic locations to contribute to the process and build code.

Sue McKinney, vice president of development transformation in IBM Software Group, said the company saw the momentum around open-source software some years ago. "We had this challenge of integrating several acquisitions, and we had all kinds of tools and assets and nobody was reusing them," she said. "We had to eliminate inefficiency, and we were under pressure. So we wanted to get engineers to contribute assets they were working on."

IBM called on Julie King, an IBM distinguished engineer, to focus on the problem and to help bring some governance to the process. King's team developed a lightweight, Web-based application to help IBM's developers more easily access all the assets available to them as part of the community-source effort.

There are currently more than 31,000 developers using the IBM community-source assets, a number that is growing 30 percent annually, McKinney said. In addition, there are more than 1,400 projects in IBM's community-source program, and that number is growing 32 percent each year. There also are more than 2,400 instances of direct reuse of components in community source. And, of the 25 most reused components in IBM Software Group, more than 75 percent are part of the community-source program.

IBM's King said the community-source governance application is a portal solution based on IBM's RAM (Rational Asset Manager).

"We have added more Web 2.0 and social networking parts to the system to allow people to interact more, and to do things like judge and rate components," King said. "We tried to make it a more usable and community-centric site."

King said her group has also worked to make it easier to initiate projects. "This is a precursor to us doing more asset reuse," she said. "We want to use RAM to reuse other stuff, not just software code and components, but things like sales collateral, automation scripts, etc. We're saving the corporation hundreds of millions of dollars."


Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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