Welcome!

Open Source Cloud Authors: Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Zakia Bouachraoui

Related Topics: Open Source Cloud

Open Source Cloud: Article

The OSS Development Life Cycle Part 4 of 4

The OSS Development Life Cycle Part 4 of 4

This is an excerpt from Chapter 6 of Understanding Open Source Software Development by Joseph Feller and Brian Fitzgerald, published by Addison-Wesley. ISBN 0201734966. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher. (c) 2002 Addison-Wesley

The traditional software development life cycle (SDLC) is premised on a set of stages, which, in their most generic form, include:

  • Planning
  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Implementation
However, the OSS development life cycle is quite different. First, the planning, analysis, and design phases are largely conducted by the initial project founder, and are not part of the general OSS development life cycle. Getting design issues right is perhaps even more critical in OSS than in conventional development. Certain criteria in relation to modularity of the code are critical. For example, modules must be loosely coupled, thereby allowing distributed development in the first place. Less important, but still highly desirable for achieving an efficient development model, is that modules be highly cohesive and address a single well-defined purpose. However, design decisions are generally made in advance, before the larger pool of developers start to contribute, and are generally based on well-established design patterns. This allows developers to collaborate without having to undergo the detailed requirements analysis or design phases of the traditional life cycle. In the absence of conventional project management, the importance of "having a tail-light to follow" (Bezroukov, 1999b) is a very useful coordinating principle, as it allows a multitude of developers to contribute. This also helps to explain why many OSS products are horizontal infrastructure-type products, as these are ones in which the requirements are pretty well understood. In vertical domains, developer knowledge of the application domain has been found to be critical, but it is unlikely that the pool of potential developers would be as high in such domains.

Thus, the OSS development life cycle is located primarily within the implementation phase of the traditional SDLC. Several researchers have investigated the life cycle underpinning OSS. Bollinger et al. (1999) suggest that it follows a very intensive spiral model (Boehm, 1988), albeit without any real risk assessment. Mockus et al. (2000) have derived a life cycle for OSS from their study of the Apache Project, and Jorgensen (2001) has investigated the life cycle in the FreeBSD Project. Both have come up with models that are largely compatible, but Jorgensen's is more detailed. He identifies the following main phases in the OSS development life cycle:

Code
  

  • Review     
  • Pre-commit test       
  • Development release         
  • Parallel debugging           
  • Production release

    Code
    This is the sine qua non activity. However, many potential OSS contributors may fear taking the initial step of submitting their code for review by the supremely talented OSS "code-gods" (Asklund and Bendix, 2001; Bergquist and Ljungberg, 2001), a fear that is quite warranted when you consider the views of a FreeBSD developer reported by Jorgensen (2001):

    The way you get commit privileges is by first making enough code contributions…This implies the code you've been submitting is of sufficiently impressive quality that no one objects and says, "Yuck, no, don't give him commit privileges. He writes ugly code."

    Thus, the knowledge that talented and respected peers will be reviewing the code is a real incentive to improve the quality of the code being submitted in the first place.

    Review
    As already mentioned, truly independent peer review is one of the central strengths of the OSS process. However, Jorgensen found that eliciting feedback was not always easy. "Heavyweights" with a proven reputation will get a lot of feedback, but it can be quite difficult to get attention as a newbie - another classic "Catch-22" situation. Also, somewhat paradoxically, the simpler the code, the more feedback you gets. However, complex code would invariably benefit more from feedback. Also, it's more difficult to get feedback on design issues.

    Precommit Test
    Given the vulnerability of the OSS development model, it's critical that committers test each contribution carefully to avoid breaking the build, another common norm in the OSS community. Since there is no convenient help-line or telephone support for those installing the eventual product, it can be an adventure completing an actual OSS product installation. Sanders (1998) quotes the "tech-savvy" Ellen Ullman's description of her installation of Linux as "an exhilarating succession of problem-solving challenges." Given this problematic installation context, it is imperative that installation proceeds as smoothly as possible without unnecessary noise, and thus rogue modules that could jeopardize this must be prevented.

    Interestingly, testing is very much a personal process. There is no requirement that test scenarios be rigorously planned and written down in advance. However, the negative implications of allowing a faulty contribution through are such that the testing process is taken very seriously indeed. As mentioned earlier, the delegation of testing to the user community - or partial delegation, as is the case with Mozilla and GNOME - is one of the strengths of OSS (Schmidt and Porter, 2001).

    Development Release
    If the committer deems the module ready, it can be incorporated in the development release. This is the key payoff for many developers as they get the reward of seeing their code implemented quickly in the product. Jorgensen (2001) cites a developer who captures it quite graphically:

    There is a tremendous satisfaction to the "see bug, fix bug, see bug fix get incorporated so that the fix helps others" cycle.

    Parallel Debugging
    The advantages of global parallel debugging were discussed above. Again, as in testing, there is typically no formal plan for debugging. Rather the numbers of potential debuggers is where the power of the debugging arises - Linus's Law. If bugs are found, they can be fixed and resubmitted as per the life cycle described above, or problem reports may be created and submitted. This can also be a way of initiating your contributions to OSS. For example, the database of outstanding problem reports could be examined, and if there are some outstanding that catch your interest or are within your capability, then these can be worked on. Thus, can you begin a career in OSS.

    Production Release
    Contributions eventually become part of the production release. They are merged into the stable production branch. This is accomplished in different ways in different projects. FreeBSD maintains stable production and current development branches, and contributions that are eventually found suitable are merged into the latest stable production branch, and, in the case of a bug fix, to any previous production branches to which it might be relevant. Linux maintains its stable production and development versions in different directories, and uses release numbers to identify production (even numbers) and development (odd numbers) versions.

    Conclusion
    We have argued that the generic OSS development process is characterized by the practice of parallel, rather than linear, collaboration among developers, which leads to increases in both speed and quality; by the participation of large, globally distributed communities of developers who participate in a truly independent peer review process; by prompt feedback (e.g., bug reports) and prompt recognition (e.g., integration of bug fixes); by the participation of talented and motivated developers and extremely active users; and by rapid, incremental release schedules. We also examined the well-stocked toolkit of OSS, including configuration management tools like CVS, as well as editors, build tools, documentation extractors, and the like. Finally, we argued that the OSS process is governed by an elaborate system of taboos and social mores that take the place of formal project management, and that the OSS process follows a distinctly different development life cycle to traditional proprietary software.

  • More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

    Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

    Comments (0)

    Share your thoughts on this story.

    Add your comment
    You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

    In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


    IoT & Smart Cities Stories
    Digital Transformation: Preparing Cloud & IoT Security for the Age of Artificial Intelligence. As automation and artificial intelligence (AI) power solution development and delivery, many businesses need to build backend cloud capabilities. Well-poised organizations, marketing smart devices with AI and BlockChain capabilities prepare to refine compliance and regulatory capabilities in 2018. Volumes of health, financial, technical and privacy data, along with tightening compliance requirements by...
    We are seeing a major migration of enterprises applications to the cloud. As cloud and business use of real time applications accelerate, legacy networks are no longer able to architecturally support cloud adoption and deliver the performance and security required by highly distributed enterprises. These outdated solutions have become more costly and complicated to implement, install, manage, and maintain.SD-WAN offers unlimited capabilities for accessing the benefits of the cloud and Internet. ...
    Discussions of cloud computing have evolved in recent years from a focus on specific types of cloud, to a world of hybrid cloud, and to a world dominated by the APIs that make today's multi-cloud environments and hybrid clouds possible. In this Power Panel at 17th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the importance of customers being able to use the specific technologies they need, through environments and ecosystems that expose their APIs to make true ...
    Business professionals no longer wonder if they'll migrate to the cloud; it's now a matter of when. The cloud environment has proved to be a major force in transitioning to an agile business model that enables quick decisions and fast implementation that solidify customer relationships. And when the cloud is combined with the power of cognitive computing, it drives innovation and transformation that achieves astounding competitive advantage.
    DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that "IoT Now" was named media sponsor of CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO 2018 New York, which will take place on November 11-13, 2018 in New York City, NY. IoT Now explores the evolving opportunities and challenges facing CSPs, and it passes on some lessons learned from those who have taken the first steps in next-gen IoT services.
    "Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
    In an era of historic innovation fueled by unprecedented access to data and technology, the low cost and risk of entering new markets has leveled the playing field for business. Today, any ambitious innovator can easily introduce a new application or product that can reinvent business models and transform the client experience. In their Day 2 Keynote at 19th Cloud Expo, Mercer Rowe, IBM Vice President of Strategic Alliances, and Raejeanne Skillern, Intel Vice President of Data Center Group and G...
    The current age of digital transformation means that IT organizations must adapt their toolset to cover all digital experiences, beyond just the end users’. Today’s businesses can no longer focus solely on the digital interactions they manage with employees or customers; they must now contend with non-traditional factors. Whether it's the power of brand to make or break a company, the need to monitor across all locations 24/7, or the ability to proactively resolve issues, companies must adapt to...
    DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that ICC-USA, a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances, will exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO. DXWordEXPO New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City. ICC is a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances to meet a wide range of ...
    René Bostic is the Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America. Enjoying her career with IBM during the modern millennial technological era, she is an expert in cloud computing, DevOps and emerging cloud technologies such as Blockchain. Her strengths and core competencies include a proven record of accomplishments in consensus building at all levels to assess, plan, and implement enterprise and cloud computing solutions. René is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and a m...