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Black Duck's Excellent Acquisition--A Community

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By Mark Hinkle

I met Black Duck CEO, Doug Levin back in October 2003 at the Enterprise Linux Forum in Washington D.C. I instantly liked him. He was just starting Black Duck Software and as a ex-Microsoftie talking about IP assurance I wasn't convinced about the bright future of his business. However, I enjoyed meeting Doug and wished him the best of luck and went on my way.

It wasn't long before Doug's venture received funding and support from Red Hat who also invested in the business, a telling sign. Black Duck has grown to be a leading global provider of products and services for accelerating software development through the managed use of open source and third-party code.

Blackduck SoftwareI realized that I was drinking the open source Kool-Aid while many others were very cautious about what they downloaded, used and deployed in their companies. Given a growing number of regulatory issues it has become more necessary today then ever to have some assurance that your downloaded code is licensed and used properly.

Companies like Black Duck have always seemed like an anomaly to me. These companies provide tools and services to an industry that thrive on community. Black Duck always struck me as a tool for lawyers. That's why I was impressed to see that Black Duck had acquired Koders, a search engine for open source software and other downloadable code.

This is one of the most interesting open source mergers of the year. First Koders is a huge repository of open source code, (766,893,913 lines according to their home page). Second, Koders has a very active community with over 30,000 visitors every day and forums posts that are fairly well read. Unlike other tools from Palamida (who has a good GPLv3 resource and legal knowledge) or HP's Fossology (which a free code search tool) Black Duck now has a nice trifecta, a community, a large directory of code, and a commercial offering to supplement the needs of those users.

I suspect most of the Koders.com are programmers who download code and incorporate it in to larger works. At some point Many will have to provide some back-up that the code is licensed and compatible with these collective works. I suspect having Black Duck associated with this code will have an advantage to its users.

Also I think Black Duck will reap a benefit I call, Costanza Marketing. In the Seinfield episode The Chicken Roaster, George was trying to date a woman who didn't want anything to do with him. He started to employ a technique called the leave behind. A tactic where he left items at her apartment that required him to return. Upon his departure he started singing a jingle of sorts: co-stanz-a to the same tune as the Mennen antiperspirant commercial. After a few brand impressions the woman started to think about George and started to sing the jingle and eventually invited him on a date. [The episode had a disastrous end but the tactic was definitely effective]

With the addition of Koders, Black Duck now offers a comprehensive array of capabilities for incorporating open source software into application development.

  • Code search: With Koders, Black Duck gains a powerful code search engine that can search for specific code functions or solutions in repositories across the Internet.
  • Fragment/File search: Black Duck protexIPTM automates the review of code and finds unapproved code fragments, files or entire components that were integrated into a code base without adhering to a company's open source review policies. This capability can be used to uncover licensing violations, security issues, unsupported open source and outdated code.
  • Component search: Black Duck Code Center enables development teams to search a KnowledgeBase containing hundreds of thousands of open source components. Developers can internally publish a catalog of approved open source components to facilitate reuse within their own organizations.

I never expected OSS IP tools to become as necessary as it has. However since it has become an important part of commercial open source products and services it's good to see companies like Black Duck growing and providing unique services and even leveraging a community.

Other BlackDuck/Koders Coverage

For more Mark Hinkle, visit his Socialized Software blog.

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