In a nod to the open-source development model, IBM has patented a scheme that maps out a method of payment for broad numbers of developers working together on projects, a move that has upset some developers.
In U.S. Patent number 6,658,642, which IBM applied for in June of 2000 and was granted last month, the systems giant identifies a "system, method and program product for computer program development" that employs a distributed programming model, according to the documentation defining the patent.
The patent describes the current software development environment, where pressure to turn out quality software quickly is pushing companies to rely on developers outside their corporate walls.
"The high-tech industry is moving very fast and the first to market has a big advantage over competitors, often deciding the early winner," IBM said in a description of the patent. "So, speeding up software development increases the likelihood of success. One way to speed up software development is to increase the number of programmers on the project, distributing the workload to as many programmers as possible. Unfortunately, hiring people for a very short period of time complicates rather than simplifies development."
The description cites a programmer shortage and adds: "So, to supplement their permanent workforce, companies are forced to contract with independent contractors, delegating customized or specialized software development to the contractors. Typically, the contractors are paid either in advance or, incrementally, as the project progresses. Regardless of how much the package developer may be willing to pay, contractors still face the same programmer shortage."
The IBM "invention" is aimed at "reducing software development time and costs, while increasing the likelihood of software development success," the patent said.
"As a result, with the advent of Internet, to maximize the number of programmers working on a particular project, collaborative software development projects, such as open source software development (e.g., Linux), are undertaken or initiated daily. Web based electronic businesses have formed offering contractors a solution to temporary programmer shortages," the patent said. "One such e-business is an auction site (www.cosource.com) for software development contracts, focusing on the needs of open source development. However, this approach matches a single programmer with each task. Money is paid in advance with the package developer bearing the risk that the project will not complete on schedule."
Yet, IBMs patent defines a mechanism for paying programmers who work in an open-source-like model.