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Flashline aims to ease open-source transition

There's lots of talk these days about the growing presence of open source in the enterprise. Linux is everywhere, and many IT managers are feeling the pressure to get going with an open-source project. Yet for many, this is still uncharted territory.

Enter Flashline with what you might call an open-source marketing and management starter kit. The Flashline Pattern Book for Open Source in the Enterprise offers a collection of documents, based on best practices, that address various aspects of the creation, launch and ongoing management of an open-source software initiative -- from building a business case to budget, staffing and licensing issues.

'We found that a lot of our customers were interested in taking a more proactive approach toward adopting open source,' said Flashline CEO Charles Stack. 'And there just weren't a lot of good analogies out there. They couldn't say, 'Well this is just like ... blank.' There is a lot of fear and uncertainty because it's such a new space, and we realized that we could contribute here.'

The Flashline Pattern Book pulls together best practices from the industry, from Flashline's existing customers and from its own research, Stack told eADT. The Cleveland-based provider of software asset management solutions has worked extensively with Fortune 500 organizations and federal agencies incorporating open-source projects into their software asset management initiatives.

The Flashline Pattern Book provides resources to help organizations address the business processes that support successful open-source programs, such as effective governance strategies and implementation procedures.

The first version of the Flashline Pattern Book consists of templates for project plans, presentations and worksheets that address key issues, requirements and milestones, including: 

  • Business case -- an executive overview and business-oriented rationale for incorporating open source into the enterprise.
     
  • Project plan -- a roadmap for the initiative. Includes timelines and milestones, worksheets, communications plans, budgets and benefits to various roles throughout the organization.
     
  • Implementation -- includes worksheets for calculating total cost of ownership for open-source assets, key phases and activities for selecting, managing and tracking open-source assets.
     
  • Staffing -- overview of roles and qualifications required to support open source, including the role of a 'steward' acting as liaison between the open-source community and the enterprise. 

  • Legal issues --- summary of the various open-source licensing strategies.

Along with industry best practices, Flashline has included a bit of its own flavoring in the mix. For example, among the documents in the Flashline Pattern Book is a staffing position dubbed the 'steward,' who would serve as a kind of liaison between the corporation and the open-source community.

'Open source exists as a community,' Stack explained, 'and if corporate communities adopt an open-source project, there's a benefit to both sides having somebody act as the liaison between the two. For that purpose, we've assigned this role of the steward, who basically channels the corporate feedback into the open-source community so that there is a single point of contact, and so that the company can be a responsive, open-community member.'

Interestingly, Flashline has open sourced the open-source Flashline Pattern Book; it is published under a Creative Commons open license that permits the free use, modification and non-commercial redistribution of the Flashline Pattern Book so it can evolve through the same process that has produced open-source software.

Stack hopes the open-source model will provide improvements and refinements to the Flashline Pattern Book over time. 'We don't see this version as the final answer,' he said. 'It's just like open-source software itself. I'm hoping that as people download it and check it out, they will come back and say, 'You know, the budget spreadsheet left out the following things that we need to put in.' Or 'Here's another recommended book for your bibliography.' We're anticipating building a modest community around this concept and taking continuous improvements.'

While Flashline is giving away the Pattern Book, the company is selling a FlashPack for Open Source that extends the Flashline Registry to accelerate the adoption and management of open-source software assets throughout the enterprise.

The Flashline Pattern Book is available now at http://wiki.flashline.com/wiki .

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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