Evaluating the Health of Open Source Components
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Implementing open source components into commercial applications can add new and innovative functionality to commercial software products. Integrating open source enables professional software developers to optimize development efforts and free up time and resources, which can be used to add new functionality to existing applications. However, contrary to often discussed legal limitations of open source, the aspect of community vitality is rarely addressed. An unforeseen decline in health of a supplying community can lead to software bugs that cannot be fixed, a decrease in overall software quality and large expenses, caused by transition costs to an alternative software component. Software product managers who want to benefit from utilizing open source in their products must take these and many other related risks into account. In order to support software product managers and enable them to increasingly rely on open source, this research systematically analyzes the vitality of open source communities and introduces a structured method for open source vitality analysis. Built on contemporary scientific literature and expert interviews conducted at IBM, the Open Source Health Analysis Method is introduced. The method is modular and specifically designed to be adjustable to situational requirements of varying communities and project characteristics. In order to allow product managers to respond to changes in community health, an open source interaction model presents a number of activities that can be taken in order to stimulate community growth and vitality. The introduced models enable software product managers to confidently implement open source and add new and innovative features to their managed software products.