Study Looks into Open Source

The University of California, Davis gets National Science Foundation grant.

The University of California, Davis has won a $750,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct a three-year study examining how open source software is built. Professor Premkuma Devanbu hopes the study will reveal how the structure and organization of development teams can impact the resulting code.

By examining high-profile open source projects such as the Apache Web server, PostgreSQL database and the Python scripting language, Devanbu hopes to draw meaningful conclusions about development organizations and their ability to produce quality software. Devanbu says his team selected open source projects because they are able to gain unfettered access to communications, including e-mails and IM chat logs.

One intriguing issue for Devanbu is the question of why open source projects seem to defy Brooks' Law, which states that adding manpower to a late software project only makes it later.

"It's not surprising when you bring people in, because you have to train them," says Devanbu. "But that doesn't seem to happen in open source projects-things seem to go faster. I'm not sure why. But it could be that people are trained before they join the project. They self-train."

About the Author

Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.

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