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SpikeSource defends Business Readiness Rating

SpikeSource vice president JoaquÍn Ruiz addresses users' concerns about the validity and feasibility of the Business Readiness Rating project.

In the weeks following an interview with Forrester Research Inc.'s MIchael Goulde on the Business Readiness Rating (BRR), users posted several comments regarding the validity of the standards group and its ability to condense hundreds of characteristics into a single metric. The feedback prompted to seek out another member of the ratings group for some clarification.

The BRR was founded in August to help IT administrators make the right choices if and when they moved to open source software (OSS). There are currently more than 100,000 OSS projects currently available on repositories like SourceForge, Codehaus, Tigris, and OpenSymphony.

SpikeSource is an open source company that certifies and supports OSS projects for enterprise use and is also a main contributor to the open BRR project. Its vice president of product marketing, Joaquin Ruiz, spoke with on the rating system that he hopes will give adopters of open source the information they need to function more efficiently.

It's well known that the open Business Readiness Rating standard is still very early along in the steering process, but what would you say is the largest challenge BRR faces in going mainstream?

JoaquÍn Ruiz: Yes, we are still in the early going, but I would say it still is getting critical mass. However, we have been somewhat surprised in the early going in regards to BRR and in regards to the number of people downloading the proposal and asking to become part of board and steering committee.

So far, so good, says SpikeSource

SpikeSource vice president of products JoaquÍn Ruiz says that while a list of categories has already been published on the open Business Readiness Rating Web site, the standard's open nature allows for input from those outside of the project. Here's a listing of the assessment categories already addressed by the BRR:
- Functionality
- Usability
- Quality
- Security
- Performance
- Scalability
- Architecture
- Support
- Documentation
- Adoption
- Community
- Professionalism

The last metric I had checked was about 5,000 white paper downloads and hundreds of posts to the forums and also about 700 site registrations to date. That's actually a couple of weeks old at this point, and I would assume that there is more than this now. We will continue to bring in industry luminaries to be part of steering committee, and I don't want to get presumptuous, but as far as this movement is concerned, we are at a good start.

Other than [critical mass] we need the community as a whole to adopt [the] development model. Adopting the model is easy by definition because it is open. People can vote, set up these types of committees; functional overview committees [and] data-driven and development communities to work on tools.

There is a perception among some that with OSS, you can't reduce a decision on the suitability of a product to a single metric. How have you addressed this concern?

Ruiz: [The standard] is broken up into multiple categories, and if someone thinks a category is missing or important enough to be included -- because the standard is open -- they can add it.

So I think the open BRR is the opposite of that belief. The idea is that each company or person using open BRR will rank what metrics are important to their individual companies. There are more metrics in open BRR than any one person should use for one set of components. The categories are much broader than that one person would need. We both probably eat tomatoes, but we cook and weigh them in different ways. Both users can use content management systems, but their parameters are different and in this model you can achieve this.

Each user would add their own weights so that the total adds up to 100%. Those weights are weighed against target data from community or data collection in regards to factors like performance and then the result is produced.

Is the current category list interchangeable? If users ask for additional categories, is there room to expand?

Ruiz: It's completely open, so if someone determines there is a need for a new category, and that category needs input and is relevant to such and such community, then you can log onto BRR and make a suggestion. And then if the suggestion achieves critical mass, it will get added to the listing.

Unless a person reads the whole [proposal], people are going to ask how to boil the ocean to get one succinct number and then get some magical assessment. It's been difficult [at first] and it has taken a while for the original members to get a proposal with a malleable framework. There are similar examples in the external world, whether we're talking cars or digital cameras, where groups take best practices from those and implement to those and implement in manner suitable to open source. In that sense, we've really struck chord in terms of response from the community.

One example given by a user was that there was no listing for a "type of license" in the weighted criteria. Is this forthcoming?

Ruiz: There are, of course, different licensing issues at different companies, and such a category is forthcoming if it is not already part of the list.

Is there a BRR category for project history so users can see its track record?

Ruiz: Such topics are covered under a category like 'usability' or 'community.' If not addressed or covered by community, it can be found in the 'professional' category.

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