IBM is kicking off an experiment to open up its software development process in a way that mirrors the creation of open source applications.
"The reward of getting our information out there is going to be amazing and critical to the future of IBM's software," Jerry Cuomo, chief technology officer of IBM's WebSphere middleware suite, told vnunet.com in an interview at the IBM Impact 2007 conference in Orlando.
Cuomo is planning to publish the source code control system of software projects and encourage lead engineers to start blogs.
This will allow them to engage in conversations with outside developers and IBM customers and poll them on planned features and technologies.
Opening up the development process will ensure that products meet customer expectations.
The current process leads to 'big bang' releases where customers are confronted with new features only after a product is launched. This can cause products to fail.
The increased openness will also expand the information offered to end users looking for support, allowing them to use public search engines to find solutions for common problems.
IBM plans to use the more open development process for one or two new software projects over this summer.
Commercial software vendors including IBM commonly use customer advisory boards and beta programmes to test software and seek input on features. But IBM would be the first to release its source code to the general public.
The plan does not mean that IBM will follow in the footsteps of Sun Microsystems, which has published all of its middleware applications under an open source licence.
Cuomo expects to release future IBM software under a commercial licence that allows individuals to compile and test the code for free, but will keep charging licence fees for commercial deployments.
"My stress is not so much on the licensing, but on how we conduct ourselves. It is more about the social side of software development," said Cuomo.
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