DrKW Open-Sources Better Communication

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2005-03-14

DrKW Open-Sources Better Communication

Can you hear me now? Can we talk? Talk amongst yourselves.

Few tag lines, or gag lines, seem to resonate more than those tied to communication—and for good reason. Communication is the most critical part of any relationship, project or corporation.

So when a large European investment bank found that communication between its units and systems and between itself and its partners had become unwieldy, the bank made improving communication a top priority—so much so that the bank created its own solution and open-sourced it.

Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, the investment bank of Dresdner Bank AG, has developed openadaptor.org, an open-source framework for accelerating the integration of disparate systems.

DrKW, based in London and Frankfurt, Germany, signed a new three-year agreement with CollabNet Inc., of Brisbane, Calif., that broadens support for DrKWs openadaptor.org open-source community site. CollabNet provides the hosting infrastructure and development platform for openadaptor.org. With openadaptor.org, enterprises can connect their systems over the Internet without writing new code, company officials said.

Initially DrKW built openadaptor.org to facilitate systems integration within the bank and between the bank and partners and customers. The platform is an EAI (enterprise application integration) framework with components for integrating JMS; (Java Message Service); LDAP; e-mail; IBMs MQSeries; Oracle Corp., Sybase Inc. and MySQL AB databases; and XML data exchange, the company said. Essentially openadaptor.org is an open-source solution built with open-source components and used in a corporate environment.

"We use open-source technologies where they are mature enough to be used," said Steve Howe, openadaptor.org product manager for DrKW, in London. "So Apache Web servers, JBoss application servers are used. Linux is also used extensively. Firefox is a popular browser within DrKW. There are also the myriad low-level enabling technologies like CVS [Concurrent Versions System] source code control, JUnit testing, Ant project building and many, many more."

The impetus for openadaptor.org was that intersystems communication had become a major issue at DrKW, Howe said. So the investment bank began creating its own solution by fostering a distributed, collaborative software development environment. Once openadaptor.org was created, DrKW open-sourced the application and gave it away for free so that others could use it, he said.

"Initially the source code for openadaptor was open-sourced within the DrKW corporate firewall so that other DrKW developers could look at it, add to it, change and improve it if they wanted," Howe said. "And they did. A lot of the Java code within openadaptor was not written by the core openadaptor team but by our users. So this meant the idea of open-sourcing it was already validated to an extent. As an innovative IT department, taking the decision to genuinely open-source it in the real world was the next logical step."

Next Page: CollabNet to the Rescue

CollabNet to the Rescue

However, DrKW needed a platform on which to build its solution, and CollabNet provided it. Brian Behlendorf, founder and chief technology officer of CollabNet, said: "We feel there is a tremendous opportunity to improve the flexibility and effectiveness of software engineering organizations of any nontrivial size. Most large software companies have grown accustomed to incompatible developer groupware tools installed in disconnected environments, often resulting in wildly diverging development processes between teams even under the same roof and a lack of transparency between teams or up and down the organizational technology stack."

Behlendorf said CollabNet solved this problem by providing a repository for code versioning and management, issue and defect tracking, task management, project planning, team communications, and more. "This repository is globally accessible and consistent across even very dispersed teams—architects in London, product managers in Chicago, developers in San Francisco and Eastern Europe, QA [quality assurance] in India," he said.

Indeed, Howe said new contributors to the platform, inside and outside the investment bank, are making openadaptor.org better software. In fact, the application has helped to recruit developers for DrKW, he said.

Although DrKW wanted to open-source openadaptor.org from the start, it also wanted to do so without internal debate. The concern was with company insiders saying such things as, "Were a bank, not a software house" and "We spent good money developing this code; why give it away?" and "If it were any good, they wouldnt give it away," among other comments, Howe said.

When it launched in 2001, openadaptor.org was visited more than 100,000 times a week during its first few months online, and hundreds of thousands of downloads have occurred since then, company officials said.

In open-sourcing the technology, DrKW needed help selecting a license. CollabNet suggested the Massachusetts Institute of Technologys X Window System license as a model, and DrKW agreed.

"Seeing ones open-source technology established as a standard in a marketplace can make it easier for others to do business with you, to plug into or on top of your technology," Behlendorf said. "It might also save tremendous costs associated with either licensing of commercial software or bearing the burden of development entirely within the company—thus freeing up resources to spend on other initiatives."

Howe said that working with CollabNet, DrKW set up The Software Conservancy to own the intellectual property in openadaptor.org, "which made sense because it removed any potential liability from DrKW." The conservancy maintains the openadaptor.org Web site, code repository and related systems.

Meanwhile, Howe said DrKW is working on its latest open-source project, known as Bhavaya, a Java library that delivers real-time, up-to-date access to databases.

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