Although open-source software has been around for many decades, it has only drawn the attention of major corporations in recent years. Open-source software is essentially distributed software that allows developers access to the actual source code of the software. There is, however, a misnomer that all open source software is free of charge, this is not always the case. In terms of its implementation in corporate environments, organizations need to understand all the risks involved as well as define the exact expectation they have of such software. 

With regulatory compliance playing such a big role in corporate America since the enactment of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002, organizations had to provide proof that they are utilizing software in line with the software’s license agreement. This does not only apply to proprietary software but also to any implemented open-source software. 

Identifying this need in the market, developers of business intelligence tools have started creating software tools for the curation and management of open-Source software licenses.  

These tools aim to aid organizations in accurately documenting and tracking both licensing requirements and application code providence. The latter is important since the introduction of open-source code into a corporate environment might pose risks to existing infrastructure and applications.  

There are five fundamental goals that open-source management tools aim to address: 

  • Always know exactly where all the open-source code sets are within your organizational environments. 
  • To steer clear of possible license compliance issues. 
  • To avoid wasting the precious time of developers by eliminating all manual tracking processes. 
  • To be able to react rapidly to any security vulnerabilities identified within any open-source software in use by the organization. 

Before jumping in and installing just any open-source compliance management tool an organization needs to plan thoroughly and decide what their exact expectations will be of the tool being implemented.  

Some of the groundwork that needs to be done before implementation, according to Oskar Swirtun, CEO of FossID in Sweden, are: 

  • Starting by assigning a dedicated open-source software compliance manager. Although for smaller organizations a single key responsible person would be able to manage compliance of all the software utilized by an organization. 
  • Knowing exactly what open-source software is currently in use inside the organization. Unvetted software might introduce serious risks for the organization. This risk can come in any form. From specialized development tools to media players and video editing software, for example, this software might have been installed on various terminals unbeknownst to the organization. 
  • Work hand in hand with suppliers concerning compliance. While open-source software might be a lucrative alternative due to its relatively lower cost and transparent nature, implementing software that does not comply with adequate compliance regulations should be avoided, lest the organization can partner with the developers of the software. Providing feedback for improving the software’s adherence to basic regulatory compliance principles.  
  • Playbooks and policies need to be written regarding open-source software since any compliance audit will be based on this information. These policies form the basis from which all employees and processes concerning open-source software licensing are governed. 
  • Create development compliance checkpoints, to verify actual adherence to policies. As the famous Peter Drucker once said, “If you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it”. 
  • Introduce compliance automation followed up with training for all members of staff to ensure proper discipline when it comes to the policies surrounding open-source compliance management. 

Essentially, organizations can greatly benefit from the implementation of certain open-source applications as the community that develops these applications are quite vast. You simply have to look at an example like Kubernetes to understand how powerful these applications can be.  

It is, however, essential that organizations procure and implement these applications with a clear understanding that the software developers as well as the departments implementing such software should not lose sight of regulatory compliance.  

Therefore, it is important that organizations do their research properly and implement compliance management tools to aid them in the management of open-source licenses and their related functionalities. Tools that fit into the organization’s culture and are easy to use are essential to the long-term efficacy of such endeavor.  

The long and the short is that organizations are ultimately responsible for the regulatory compliance of their business. The ease at which any of these various flavors of management tools can be acquired should motivate organizations even further. Evolving business models to fit into the evolving business landscape.