Computer Associates, which up until a year ago had no visible involvement in the open-source software world, Wednesday promised the open-source community free access to software covered by 14 of its US patents, including graphical display of data, methods of multiplexing data transmissions and a way to automate network-wide surveillance.
The New York-based Computer Associates International Inc. also announced a long-term, patent cross-license agreement with partner IBM, which opened about 500 of its own software and hardware patents in January. In making the announcement, CA joined Big Blue in creating what it called an industrywide "patent commons," in which patents are pledged royalty-free to further innovation in areas of broad interest to developers.
The patents covered by CA on Wednesday address a variety of software and components and can be used in a full range of open source projects, CA Executive Vice President Mark Barrenechea told eWeek. They include:
- Business intelligence and analytics that simplify visualization of multi-dimensional data techniques.
- Network management and security tools that enhance visualization of network traffic patterns and congestion, selectively capture and filter network traffic, and provide granular session control capabilities.
- Systems management and storage management tools that provide intelligent process controls.
- Application development and modeling that automates translation between programming languages and provides visual modeling and editing of data objects.
Computer Associates releases new BPM suite
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A detailed listing of the newly released software can be found here.
Naturally, analysts and other industry watchers were happy to see CAs contributions.
"Im a little surprised at seeing the business intelligence components being released," said industry analyst Robin Bloor, a partner at Hurwitz Associates. "The virtualization capability (of CAs business intelligence software) is a bit more state-of-the-art than, say, most of the systems management tools that are being opened up. But the fact is, none of this stuff can do anybody any good unless its allowed to be picked up and used (without strings attached), so overall this is all a very good thing for the community."
Intellectual property attorney and former Open Source Initiative general counsel Larry Rosen said that he was "pleased with this move by CA."
Forrester open source analyst Michael Goulde told eWeek that "these releases, Im sure, are good for the community, but it really does depend on whats being released. CAs look interesting, but some of the patents that have been pledged recently are pretty minor pieces representing little or no risk or effort to the donating company. A lot of older, established companies now are realizing that open source is a strategy that must be addressed."
"Others may have differing opinions, but I think among the most interesting patents were opening are in the systems management area," CAs Barrenechea said. "Our patents here are currently being used in products such as (Hewlett-Packard Co.s) OpenView, BMC (Software Inc.)s Patrol, and (CAs) UniCenter. These are things that can be used immediately." Stuart Cohen, CEO of the Portland, Ore.-based OSDL (Open Source Development Labs), said: "Were delighted to see CA, one of the worlds top software producers, take a leadership position on the critical issue of software patents to encourage the growth of the patent commons on behalf of the users and developers of open source software.
"We look forward to working closely with CA as well as IBM and the other leaders in this area as we develop a trusted vehicle and database for administering and encouraging donations to the burgeoning patent commons in which we all have a stake," said Cohen.
Computer Associates moves ahead.
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The IBM-CA "patent commons" library being built with these new additions should not be confused with the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) recently established patent commons, which was announced last month at LinuxWorld.
"The OSDL Patent Commons Project is designed to increase the utility and value of the growing number of patent pledges and promises in the past year by providing a central repository where intellectual property can be held for the benefit of open source," CA spokesman Bob Gordon told eWeek. "The project does own the pledge but merely makes it easier for developers and industry to take advantage of CAs and IBMs pledge in support of the community. We welcome OSDLs effort in creating a single, reliable place where developers and industry are able to take advantage of these offerings.
"We are not contributing the patents to the OSDL Patent Commons Project, but the project will be a library and database that aggregates patent pledges made by companies," Gordon said.
Computer Associates entered the open source market in a big way in August 2004 by releasing its Ingres database to the community. Last May, the company paid a $1 million prize in a development competition to a group of programmers who delivered in record time migration toolkits from Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server and MySQL to CAs Ingres r3 open source platform.
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