Open source code is supposed to reduce redundancy by saving developers from reinventing the wheel. To help it do a better job of that, the Linux Foundation this week announced a new OpenChain Workgroup, a new initiative that aims to standardize common practices to make open source more efficient.


The Linux Foundation, a nonprofit consortium that promotes Linux and open source software, announced the OpenChain WorkGroup Monday at LinuxCon Europe. Founding members of the group include ARM, Cisco Systems, NexB, Qualcomm, SanDisk and Wind River.

The OpenChain WorkGroup’s mission is to “provide a baseline process that can be customized as companies and developers see fit,” according to the Linux Foundation. “It will initially provide a set of guidelines that is intended to be used as a basis for monitoring and developing compliance programs. OpenChain will leverage existing best practices in the Linux ecosystem such as Debian, as well as compatible formats with the Software Package Data Exchange (SPDX).”

Assuring greater compliance with open source software licenses is also part of the rationale behind the OpenChain WorkGroup. In that way, the initiative complements the Linux Foundation’s hosting of FOSSology, which the group also announced this week.

“Because nearly every new technology today is built using Linux and open source software, today’s software supply chain is the open source software supply chain,” said Jim Zemlin, executive director at the Linux Foundation. “This means we need to revisit the way we standardize processes and compliance for checking code and ensure the cost and efficiency benefits of open source are sustained for decades to come. This is a long-term commitment to open compliance and one we take very seriously.”

Open source history shows that getting the community to accept common standards is not always an easy task. If even a relatively small group of developers doesn’t like a standard, they often go off in their direction. That’s why some open source programmers forked glibc in the 1990s for a while, for example, and also why the bulk of the OpenOffice coders took flight to launch LibreOffice in 2010. For that reason, enforcing standards can be tough, even if you have the authority of the Linux Foundation behind you.

Nonetheless, trying to provide more standardization can’t hurt, especially for attracting more industry interest to open source.