When good open-source projects go bad
March 15, 2013 —
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Related Search Term(s): Hudson, Jenkins, Metasploit, open source
The music industry is where the concept began: Selling out was the end of your art, because big-money, big-label record deals would have to appeal to a wider, watered-down audience. Compromises would have to be made. This led to artists being accused by their early, rabid fans of selling their souls for money. But what happens when you sell your underground open-source project, and yourself, to a corporation?
The story is a familiar one in the software development industry, and there is one large company that has gobbled up more open-source companies in the past four years than any other: Oracle.
Indeed, if this were the music industry, Oracle would be the giant record label sucking the cool out of the band. Oracle's acquisitions of Java, MySQL and dozens of other software projects have often been fraught with peril and complaints from the everyday users of these projects.
Case in point: the Hudson project. When Oracle took the reins after its acquisition of Sun Microsystems, there was an almost immediate forking of the technology to keep it running outside of Oracle's influence. The Jenkins project picked up where Hudson had left off in the open-source community.
It's now been three years since that split occurred, and according to Hudson (and Jenkins) creator Kohsuke Kawaguchi, the numbers show that Jenkins has clearly taken the mindshare from Oracle’s Hudson.
According to a survey done by ZeroTurnaround and released in February, the difference between Hudson and Jenkins shows a clear winner in the split: Jenkins. The survey indicated that in 12 months, Hudson had 500 code commits, while Jenkins has had 1,200 commits. Jenkins showed 298 developers contributing code to the project, while Hudson had only 10. The contrast even shows up on Twitter, where Jenkins has 8,060 followers, and Hudson has only 1,176.
Simon Maple, ZeroTurnaround technology evangelist, said the pattern of forking and moving on is repeated whenever a project is swallowed by a larger organization that the community feels isn't focused on their needs. He said that this is how the community fights back when a less-than-philanthropic company takes over coding duties for an open-source project. As an example, he cited Eclipse Foundation concurrency framework Vert.x.
Vert.x was created by Tim Fox while he was at VMware, but he has recently moved to Red Hat, bringing with him concerns over copyright ownership of the project. (VMware owned the code written by Fox while he was in its employ.)
“When Tim Fox moved from VMware to Red Hat...there was a lot of talk about forking the Vert.x project, and how that would affect the original project,” said Maple. “Although Vert.x and Jenkins are very different, it was very interesting following that to see the comparisons between the two.
“What happened with Jenkins and Hudson meant that the Vert.x community were fine to have a fork if that's what everyone wanted to do. They realized there's a massive chance of the same thing happening because...the Jenkins/Hudson split has shown what's possible in a community.”