Overcome These 4 Challenges to Maximize Open Source Benefits

August 4, 2016 Sivan Michaeli

open source challenges

When software development teams embrace open source, good things happen. But like with any change, new challenges arise when old processes are modified to accommodate new methodologies. This applies tenfold when it comes to enterprises.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at the top challenges facing enterprises when using open source components in their products.

#1 Choosing the Right Open Source Components

It’s essential that developers will choose the right open source components and integrate them well. The challenge is even greater for developers within enterprises, due to the multi-department guidelines which must be followed. For example, you may have legal blacklisting certain open source licenses, while security is challenging the addition of certain vulnerable components. This is without even mentioning existing system requirements. For not only do developers need to make sure the addition of new components does not cause system instability, but as many enterprises are still reliant on legacy systems, the task is made that much harder.

Enabling your developers to select the right components for the first time can speed up your development process considerably. Just think how integration usually becomes a process of trial and error and add to it the fact that in most cases instead of finding one good option, there are dozens of ok-ish alternatives. We know from our customers that using our

We know from our customers that our selection tool plugin has enabled their developers to make more educated choices when evaluating open source components. This has led to a dramatic shift in time spent on open source component evaluation and integration time and the quality of newly added components.

#2 Lengthy Approval Processes

The way many enterprises deal with the previous challenge is by creating an even bigger one –meaning a long and painful review and approval process for every single component developers wish to integrate to the code.

Instead of training developers what to look for when choosing open source components (versions, licenses, security vulnerabilities, severe bugs etc.), some enterprises tend to take the more complicated and controlled path of making developers get an OK for each component prior to downloading. This process usually backfires, as either developers find 'creative' ways to get around this approval process so they can move forward more quickly, or it slows down the development rate and holds back open source adoption.

The solution to this problem is obviously automation. Setting up automated policies to automatically accept or reject components based on predefined criteria e.g. open source licenses, known security vulnerability, the number of newer version etc. This can eliminate the need for manual approval for the majority of components and therefore not hold back your developers. Manual approval of course still has a place, but it should be the exception, not the rule.

#3 Too many Component Versions

It’s not uncommon for us to see big software development teams may using up to 10 different versions of the same open source component. Using multiple versions of the same component not only increases your risk of security vulnerabilities and severe software bugs, but it also makes it harder for your team to make upgrades when needed.

In most cases, simply educating your developers on the value of standardization, meaning re-using the same version as much as possible, and setting up automated processes to check for existing versions can significantly reduce this issue and minimize your risk.

#4 Managing Your Software Supply Chain

Software products consist of four main types of components: proprietary (developed in-house), commercial libraries, open source components and external code from third-party suppliers (subcontractors). With such a complex software supply chain, is there any wonder many software teams don’t really know what’s in their software?

Yet, especially when it comes to third-party components, you need to know what you’re using. Otherwise, how can you ensure you’re compliant with a commercial or open source licenses, and how can you track reported security vulnerabilities and severe software bugs? Therefore, you must set up processes to identify your third party inventory when it comes to your developers, and validate the third party libraries used by your subcontractors. Another option is to use automated tools to detect open source components during development and once your subcontractors deliver a project to generate an accurate inventory list effortlessly.

Open Source Success

Due to the cost, quality and innovation benefits on offer, open source is the way software is built today. With the key open source challenges facing enterprises highlighted and managed, we hope you and your team can keep on using open source to grow your organization.

 

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