A Study of Configuration Management in Open Source Software Projects

Author(s): Ulf Asklund and Lars Bendix
Venue: Software, IEE Proceedings
Date: Feb. 2002



Publication Date:
Volume: 149 ,
On page(s): 40 - 46
ISSN: 1462-5970
INSPEC Accession Number:7250440

This paper focuses on projects where developers are geographically distributed and there is a high employee turnover, specifically open source software projects. The authors examine the configuration management processes for some open source software projects and analyze how processes, tool support, and personal aspects contribute to their success. They establish three research questions:

1. How do they do it? Can their implicit software configuration management processes be made explicit so they can be repeated, and what should other companies look out for and handle the task of configuration management for an open source software project?

2. Why are they successful? What factors and configuration management tasks are they doing better than traditional projects?

3. What can conventional software projects learn from open source projects?

The configuration management processes described from open source software projects in the paper are mainly based upon interview with key developers from KDE, Mozilla, and Linux, as well as current research in the field.

The authors find that open source software development can be considered as "individual development in groups", and the developer has a direct personal interest or gain from contributions to the project which is not typically the case in traditional (commercial) development. This reduces administrative overhead and management to a minimum. The study also adds some new practices to software configuration management that were learned from open source software development.