The Open Group's Open Software Registry is a new resource forIS professionals charged with making informed software purchases.
By Paul Tanner
Buying software in a heterogeneous, distributed environment is a complex, costly process. Faced with multiple sources of product information, customers must spend valuable time identifying all the suitable products, reading the available information and short-listing products for closer review. Combined with short-lived investment in software--which is often caused by an initial lack of specific information, such as conformance to open standards--the software procurement process is estimated to cost the user community millions of dollars a year.
Dick O'Donnell, director of information technologies at Harris Corp. in Melbourne, FL, one of the world's largest electronics and communications companies, has much experience with this process. "When selecting suppliers, knowing their software's ability to meet certain standards is essential," he says. "But getting that information can be difficult and time-consuming. Often it means a good deal of personal research using multiple sources of information such as the vendor's literature, market research and personal contacts. In the case of standards on the likes of portability, that type of information is not available at all."
To help tackle the problems associated with software procurement, The Open Group has introduced The Open Software Registry--an online, World Wide Web-based information service. Its Web address is http://www.opensoftware.com. The registry provides a primary reference source to locate open software products and better understand interproduct dependencies, standards conformance and portability. The service is free to end users.
Unlike other sources of software information, The Open Software Registry is updated daily. It also incorporates a unique, independent auditing capability, based on a test tool, which the software supplier can download. Once applied to a product, this test tool identifies how strictly the listed software conforms to open standards, such as the Single UNIX Specification. In keeping with the registry, this information can be uploaded automatically. Already, thousands of products have been listed on it.
The advanced search functions incorporated within The Open Software Registry can be helpful in selecting software products. For example, users can search by type of application (such as accounting or payroll), industry category (such as financial services or manufacturing), supplier or platform. Searches by standards conformance, interproduct dependencies and portability also can be carried out. The result is that the time to compile a qualified product short list is dramatically reduced.
To encourage software vendors to register their products, The Open Group has automated the process. This optimizes the system's efficiency and minimizes the time required to register on it. All product information can be loaded onto The Open Software Registry directly by the vendor. Because new product information is audited by The Open Group within 24 hours, end-user customers can be confident that the information is up-to-date and accurate, and that the standards conformance and portability claims made by the supplier are correct.
The idea has been warmly received by customer and vendor communities alike. Dave Halbig, a software development manager at MCI Telecommunications in Colorado Springs, CO, says, "The point about standards is that they should promote 'plug-and-play' software, but at the moment we are still in the realms of 'plug, hammer and play.' If there is an easy way to get audited information, perhaps backed by the X/Open branding, it would give customers confidence that the software will actually conform to standards as the vendor says it will."
From the vendor side, Peter Holdermann, director of technology strategies for Software AG in Darmstadt, Germany, says, "It's about getting rid of the marketing hype. Customers are far more likely to believe a third party with no ax to grind when they certify your product is open and portable."
Developed in conjunction with both IT customers and the software industry, The Open Software Registry is a direct response to a long-standing industry requirement. Achieving effective plug-and-play function is a long road--that's why it is important that The Open Group has begun this journey.
Paul Tanner is business development manager at The Open Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.