Software development without Open Source Software is nowadays unimaginable! However, many companies do not have adequate Open Source management policies and processes in place. Not managing the use of Open Source Software creates a high risk of violating the associated licenses, which can lead to severe legal and financial consequences for the company and its employees.

Open Source Management and SBOM 

In order to meet the requirements for compliant use of open source software, you first need full transparency over the open source usage in your products. A complete inventory list, the so-called Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) must be created and kept current. It contains information about which Open Source is used, which version in the code, and which license(s) apply.

Creating and maintaining SBOMs manually is not feasible, especially because of the high number of Open Source components used, and open-source code which is silently introduced by frameworks or developers directly copying fragments into the source files. A good approach is scanning the entire codebase with a tool that detects open-source libraries and snippets. The creation of the SBOM requires manual identification of the Open Source artifacts, based on the scan results. Such an analysis must be conducted before the product is released, to ensure that all licenses are known, and the obligations are fulfilled prior to the distribution. Most of the time, the analysis reveals issues like license conflicts or copyleft problems, which would require to release of the whole product as open source. These issues must be fixed. To avoid a last-minute crunch and delays shortly before the product launch, the analysis should be done regularly during development, to catch issues early in the process.

Once the SBOM is available, it is necessary to perform a technical and legal assessment of the compatibility of the respective licenses and their obligations. Different usage types require a case-by-case analysis.  In addition, special types of use may be permitted only for individual components, while others may be excluded in order to be able to use the open-source artifacts in accordance with the rules. For this, it is necessary that legal knowledge is linked with technology, i.e. both the software developers and the legal department must be involved.

Besides maintaining an accurate SBOM, other Open Source management elements are required. An open source policy must be established, defining the frame conditions for open source use. Supporting processes and guidelines must be defined and observed, to ensure policy compliance. Developers and other stakeholders must be properly trained and aware of the risks associated with using open-source software.

How could you comply with it?

Since Open Source Management requires both time and special knowledge, more and more companies decide to outsource the operational tasks partly or completely to an independent service provider, specializing in Open Source Management. This allows internal staff to focus on innovation and creating value, rather than dealing with a complex non-core process. Scalability, up or down, is also a big plus of this approach. The demand for Open Source management typically varies during the year, with heavy peaks during release periods. An internal organization typically has very limited resources and can quickly become a bottleneck in times when fast results are needed the most.

BearingPoint Open Source Management Services

BearingPoint Open Source Management Services

Our expertise is dedicated to compliance and risk management across a diverse range of business situations, organizations, and marketplaces so you could gain full transparency on Open Source-specific risks.

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