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IBM Pulls Open-Source License

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IBM has extended support for a development tool after users cried out against the company mothballing it and revoking its open-source status.

The controversy revolves around the Cgidev02 tool which is part of IBM's Easy400 software suite for the iSeries that lets developers web-enable software written in COBOL or RPG.

Changing Story

Despite labelling the product as open source and stating that it complied with the official Open Source Criteria, the vendor doesn't specify on its Web site which of the more than 70 open-source licenses governs the product. Users who download the free tools are never presented a license either.

Regardless of the product's advertised open status, IBM rejected a request from Giovanni Perotti to offer the Cgidev2 tool for download from his Web site. Perotti is a former IBM software developer who retired earlier this year.

After further review, the vendor claimed that the software had never officially been open sourced.

"While in the grand scheme of things Cgidev2 is penny-ante, the implications of its reproprietization are not," said Jonathan Eunice, principal analyst with Illuminata.

Abusing Status?

IBM has abused the software's open-source status to enjoy marketing and user acceptance benefits, he argued. By revoking the open-source status, the company undermines the value of open source.

"This is the kind of reversal that makes folks into cynics."

IBM's refusal to allow its former employee to host the software automatically meant that the tool would be mothballed. Prior to his retirement, Perotti had been the last developer to work on the project.

"I believe that such a position is totally irrespective of the iSeries and AS/400 customer's needs all over the world," Perotti wrote in an e-mail posted on a mailing group about the application.

Causing an Outcry

More than 17,000 people have registered on the Web site where they can download the tool and over 3,000 sites use it. Cgidev2 allowed IBM to retain customers that otherwise would have migrated to Microsoft's .Net platform Perotti claimed.

IBM's decision to pull support lead to an outcry among users who sent the company several hundred e-mails. This in turn caused the the company to re-assign developers.

"I didn't recognize until Monday that this tool set was still being utilized to develop applications on a platform. Once I became aware of it, I said let's go ahead and support it," Jim Herring, IBM eServer iSeries product management and business operations director told

Spokeswoman Kathleen McGraw for IBM's System and Technology Group told that the situation was based on a miscommunication. The company plans to set up a new Web site to replace the one that Perotti run where users can download the tool.

She added that the vendor is looking to release the code under an open-source license.

By Tom Sanders

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