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Embedded Systems September 2000 Vol13_10

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Most open source projects actually demonstrate how product development must be managed in order for the software industry as a whole to graduate from its cutrent chaotic state. And the corner garages? They just change tires and oil now. To make matters worse, they compete with deal- erships that offer those same services as loss leaders. The reason for this change isn 't that ca rs got more complicated . While it is true that ca• ·s did get more compli cated , their sophistication was, and still is, managed at the dealer- ships by mean of explicit service pro- cedures and specialized diagnostic equ ipme nt-tools that would be equa lly effective if used at the corner garage. The reason all tho e corne1 · garages were reduced to tire and oi l changers is because the major automobile man- ufacturers created "closed source" products (the electronic engine con- troller ), and then con trolled access to essentia l p•·oduct information and train ing in order to create advan tage for tl1e ir own service centers. The major players in the software indusu-y have clearly followed this same su·ate- gy, and have arrived at exactly the same conclusion: it works well for them. Even the parallel in product release cycles is disturbingly similar. Consider th is: in the auto industry, tl1e typical way to stoke a bottom line when p•·of- its from exi ting products start to sag is LO update the product lin e. By forcing tl1 e market to transition to th is year 's more profitable models, and phasing out support for previous models, the process renews itself. Does any of this sound fami liar? nd don't get me started on tl1e simi- larities between automobile leasing and the lates t software distribution model: application sen,ers. The exit f• offer basic freedoms to the end user, and give those freedoms "teeth " (source code, docume nta tion, and unencumbered licenses) so mat the user can exercise them by taking your product elsewhe re when it makes sense in me user's mind to do so. When choice is truly an option, power doesn't consolidate unless users say it's okay first. And the decision is always revocable if me arran gem en t doesn 't meet expectations. Indeed, often only one or two con- trolling interests are behind all the dealerships in town. This isn't even permitted in some otl1er industries like commercial radio. Development Mr. MUI·phy asserts tl1at open source has li ttle to offer engineering as a soft- ware construction model. Quite to tl1e contrary, most open source projects actually demonstrate how product developme nt must be managed in order for the software indusu-y as a whole to graduate from its current chaotic state . The idea that open source would lead the way into tl1e future of our indust1-y is a profound one indeed. To prove my point, consider the ·om this scenario, as pro- posed by the free software movement, is to do what the automobile and soft- ware industries curren tly won 't do: open source indusu-y's most popular version management system, a prod- uct called CVS.• CVS's client-server capability and non-locking develop- ment model make it the perfect tool for large, geographi cally d iverse teams, which has always been the way of business for open source develop- ment. As the software industry as a whole makes increasing use of out- sourcing and telecommuting, it's good to know tl1at tl1e open source commu- ni ty is already mere showing them how to do it. But a large, di stributed develop- ment effort needs more than version management. It needs automated bug tracking as well. For that, there 's Jitterbug,2 another free utility tl1at allows users-or the software product itself-to submit bug reports via e- mail and have them automatically added to a database that can be viewed and managed with an HTML browse r. These examples show that if you want to see me next 10 years of soft- ware development practice, just look backwards at me last 15 years of tl1e free software movement. And in case you don't want to set up and use these tools yourself, mere's SourceForge, a free service th at will supply them for you-but only if you' re writing free software.3 Innovation A.free software innovation that is cur- rently in the works is EL/ IX, a Red Hat-sponsored proj ect to specify a common Linux-de rived RTOS API that can be implemented by any RTOS vendor, free or omerwise.4 Although counterintuitive at first, bom open source and commercial RTOS vendors stand to gain a lot in me success of this effort, because tl1eir EL/ IX-compliant products become drop-in re placeme nts for other EL/ IX-based components. This makes it easier for a vendor to unseat an established competitor in situations where their product is clearly a bette r choice. But consumers of EL/ IX-related products stand to gain the most from EL/ IX, because the cost of changing an EL/ IX-compliant compone nt for anothe r is significantly reduced. When EL/ IX hits the streets, RTOS vendors will fin ally be forced to ma r- ket themselves based on their true strengths and weaknesses, instead of winning designs by pedigree, Embedded Systems Programming SEPTEMBER 2ooo 89

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