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Open Source: OS Quality Often Trumps Proprietary Alternatives

By Dick Weisinger

A decade ago most enterprises avoided Open Source software, but things have changed.   Right now Open Source use at enterprises stands at higher than 75 percent, and Gartner predicts that in just five years that 99 percent of enterprises will have adopted some amount of Open Source software.  So rather than Open Source being considered as a marginalized alternative to commercial software, Open Source is increasingly becoming the mainstream option.

In a recent analysis that pitted source code taken from Open Source against source code from commercial systems, Open Source software came out on top.  The Coverity Scan Integrity project examined 37 million lines of Open Source software and compared the quality of the code against 300 million lines taken from proprietary software.

Zack Samocha, Coverity Scan Project Director, said that “The line between open source and proprietary software will continue to blur over time as open source is further cemented in the modern software supply chain… Open source projects are acting like commercial products. If I am a commercial company and I want to adopt open source, there are definitely projects out there that are trustworthy.”

How did Coverity judge and compare code quality?  The Coverity Scan tool is automated and looks for software defects that includes things like:

  • Pointer dereferencing
  • Uninitialized Variables
  • Memory Corruption
  • Control Flow Problems

Only high and medium severity defects were considered in the defect counts for the report.

45 major open source projects were examined, each with an average of about 820,000 lines of code.  The defect density for Open Source averaged .45 defects for every 1000 lines of code, compared to a higher defect density of .64 which was found with proprietary software.  In particular, code from Linux, PostgresSQL and PHP projects were singled out in the report as being exemplary models of good software — that’s important since these projects are the common elements of LAMP-style Open Source software development.

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