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Open source software gets boost from big business.

IBM STRENGTHENED ITS SUPport for open source software when it announced a new relationship with higher ed. Big Blue is giving colleges and universities free access to its alpha Works lab, a research center for emerging technologies, including new games and middleware tools.

Students and faculty members can delve into IBM's source code to learn how development projects work. In exchange, they can offer improvements and new ideas. The hope is that collaboration will result in better commercial products. In the past, IBM offered colleges and universities a 90-day trial to its research and emerging software products.

Other divisions at IBM are already furthering open source efforts in higher education. Its Business Consulting unit is working closely with the Sakai Project (, a higher ed-led effort that includes the University of Michigan, which is about to issue version 2.0 of its free course management system. The company is also supporting the Kuali Project (, a separate effort of Indiana University and others to produce an open source financial management system for colleges and universities. OSPI, the Open Source Portfolio Initiative, ( also is getting help from IBM.

"We have people building Sakai in IBM's DB2, or getting it to run on industrial-strength middleware," explains Patrick Carey, industry leader for higher education in the Business Consulting division. After gaining practical experience with the open source programs, IBM consultants report back to the three major higher-ed initiatives with the goal of tweaking and improving the programs. IBM's involvement also helps set standards for open source software--an important mission if disparate universities are going to use the same programs.

"Open source software that isn't based on standards has no value," insists Carey. The higher-ed landscape is strewn with such open source programs that fell by the wayside, he says.

Programs that are based in software standards move through the development phase quicker, he adds. And, obviously, the quicker a software is developed, the quicker commercial companies can offer their for-profit hosting and support services. To that end, IBM already is partnering with The rSmart Group (, a commercial venture that offers service and support for higher ed.

In a separate endeavor, several companies, along with Carnegie Mellon University (Pa.) have launched an effort to evaluate open source software. As any IT manager knows, free programs can come with coding problems and untested applications. To minimize headaches, Intel and SpikeSource are joining Carnegie Mellon to create the Business Readiness Ratings system, which will be distributed at
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Publication:University Business
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2005
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