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Open Source Study Reveals High Level of Code Reuse

An analysis of 1,311 open source projects revealed that open source developers reused code from those projects in other projects more than 365,000 times, saving the open source community over 316,000 staff years and tens of billions of dollars in development costs. The study conducted by Black Duck Software, a provider of products and services for accelerating software development through the managed use of open source software (OSS), points to the dramatic efficiencies and cost savings of open source code reuse.

In the review of well-known open source projects, Black Duck examined instances where reusable binary components from one open source project were included in the downloadable release of another project. GNU Automake leads the list of the most-reused code, appearing as a component of 12,469 other project releases.

To conduct the analysis Black Duck selected 1,311 popular open source projects, a small fraction of the roughly 200,000 open source projects catalogued in the Black Duck KnowledgeBase. Projects in the study contained about 491 million total lines of software source code. With an approximate reuse rate of one percent in each of the hundreds of thousands of reuses, developers were able to avoid writing some 1.4 billion lines of source code.

Black Duck spiders the Internet collecting open source and other downloadable code into a repository called the Black Duck KnowledgeBase; a repository of more than 200,000 open source projects with tens of billions of lines of code from over 4,100 unique Internet sites. The Black Duck KnowledgeBase is the largest and fastest-growing repository of open source code in the industry.

The table below lists the top reused open source projects in the Black Duck survey.

Component NameReuse Count
GNU Automake 12,469
Autoconf 6,621
X Free 86 5,925
Foxtrot 5,737
Apache-Jakarta Log4j 5,059
Apache-XML Xerces Java 2 4,960
Jakarta Commons-Logging 4,939
Java Platform, Enterprise Edition (Java EE, J2EE) 4,312
Apache Tomcat 4,136
MS VB 2005 Samples 4,098

Enterprise software analyst Jay Lyman of The 451 Group observes, "Given economic conditions and the maturation of open source software, enterprise interest in putting it to work wherever possible continues to grow. While organizations are more comfortable with using and reusing open source software within their development and products, they often remain wary of the implications of using open source. Concerns center on security, licenses, version, compatibility and compliance. By bringing together all of this information on open source software in use, Black Duck can provide greater assurance for enterprise open source users."

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