Magical thinking puts open source maintenance in jeopardy

Open source software maintenance is broken. Tobie Langel has a big picture idea for how to fix it, which he shares in this installment of IT Ops Query.

For Tobie Langel, founder of UnlockOpen, a consulting firm on open source ecosystems, the veil on how to maintain open source software projects has been lifted.

His take: Governments should end their magical thinking that they can regulate something they're not funding. Instead, they should work collaboratively to develop a tax that funds comprehensive maintenance and ensures sustainability.

"Markets are good at certain things and not good at others, and typically, managing and maintaining commons is something that markets are not designed to do well," Langel recently told TechTarget Editorial's Beth Pariseau in Episode 6 of IT Ops Query: Tech's Tragedy of the Commons.

Open source software has become a critical component in application development, making up as much as 80% of code in today's apps, according to Langel. But the question of maintenance has not been well addressed. Governments are beginning to up the ante given exploits such as Log4Shell by introducing policies and security requirements for software development.

But, Langel said, policies and requirements will only go so far, especially for developers working on a volunteer basis.

"At some point, you're going to have to make a call as a government -- 'Well, if we want security, we're going to have to pay for it,'" he told Pariseau.

When Langel considers how much it would take to fund open source maintenance, his estimate suggests it could cost as little as 0.1% of what companies pay for software development as a whole.

How that funding model will be structured and who is involved in creating and supporting that model are still questions to be grappled with. Here, Langel shares some of his early thoughts.

Nicole Laskowski is a senior news director for TechTarget Editorial. She drives coverage for news and trends around enterprise applications, application development and storage.

Beth Pariseau, senior news writer for TechTarget Editorial, is an award-winning veteran of IT journalism covering DevOps. Have a tip? Email her or reach out @PariseauTT.

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