HP FOSSology Project Analyzes Open Source Software

Feb 04, 2008

Hewlett-Packard has launched a project dubbed FOSSology to investigate and monitor the use of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in the enterprise.

The project name, FOSSology, stands for "the study of FOSS", as the authors reveal on the project homepage. Thus far, modules for license analysis, MIME type identification, and for extracting meta data exist, with more functions, such as software analysis agents to follow shortly. FOSSology has its origins in an internal control project which HP launched to help improve its own IT organization. " As part of HP's own internal IT governance process, we needed a tool that would quickly and accurately describe how a given open source project was licensed,” say the developers talking about the project's origins. "Rather than simply collecting a project's advertised license (as given at their website or in their documentation), this tool needed to analyze all of the source code for a given project and intelligently report all of the licenses being used, based on the license declarations and tell-tale phrases that identify software licensing.” Licensing statements and formulations are referred to for this. Developments soon expanded beyond the original ideas, and FOSSology's authors now regard their project as a comprehensive data mining framework. Data mining applies statistical and mathematical methods to investigate large volumes of data and identify rules and patterns.

HP has released FOSSology under the General Public License GPL v2 and hopes for active community involvement. The project's staff see broad target group: on the one hand, enterprises can use FOSSology to identify the FOSS licenses and programs deployed in their own IT. On the other, HP recommends the software to developers and distributors of free software, who will benefit from the ability to map and describe their own packages and projects with help from FOSSology. The project is looking to avoid legal pitfalls and has published a disclaimer to safeguard itself against claims. The website says: "In general, the analysis results are very good guesses, but should not be considered authoritative.”.
The FOSSology website also has a list of projects that offer similar functionality, including the free OpenLogic software tool, and contributions by enterprises such as Palamida or Black Duck Software whose products help corporations ensure that their own developments do not infringe on third-party licenses or copyrights.

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