UPDATED 19:38 EDT / FEBRUARY 06 2019

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Microsoft joins the OpenChain Project to push open-source software licensing standards

Microsoft Corp. wants to support more standardization of open-source software licensing, so today it’s putting its weight behind the OpenChain Project as its latest platinum member.

Microsoft joins other platinum members that include Google LLC, Arm Holdings Ltd. and Facebook Inc., as well as GitHub Inc., which Microsoft acquired last year.

The OpenChain Project was set up to bring more clarity to the world of open-source software licenses. Open-source software has revolutionized the way in which companies build the technology they need to run their businesses, but licensing issues remain a big headache for their legal teams. In a constant state of panic over potential litigation issues, businesses need assurances that the open source they use is in compliance with whatever rules govern its use.

“A key part of doing open source right is being able to trust that the code you receive complies with its open source licenses,” Microsoft Assistant General Counsel David Rudin wrote in a blog post announcing the move. “It’s a deceptively hard problem and one that Microsoft is working with the community to address.”

OpenChain was set up to introduce common standards around the way companies declare their open-source efforts are compliant with licensing standards. Ensuring compliance can be an exceptionally difficult task. OpenChain provides a specification plus processes, policies and training that companies need to manage their open-source license compliance so it becomes more efficient, understandable and predictable for participants of the software supply chain.

Now that it’s a member of OpenChain, Microsoft will help to create best practices and define new standards for compliance. That should provide its customers with even greater choices about the software they use, OpenChain officials said.

Microsoft’s decision to join OpenChain is yet another sign of its willingness to embrace open-source software following years of adamantly opposing any such notions.

Analyst Holger Mueller of Constellation Research Inc. said it’s good to see Microsoft joining the OpenChain initiative as the delivery and support mechanisms for open source software, standards and procedures are becoming more critical than ever.

“Large software vendors need to put their weight behind initiatives that provide some order to open source,” Mueller said. “Today it is Microsoft’s turn to support the OpenChain project, but it will be more interesting to follow what other enterprise software giants will do. Adobe, Cisco, Facebook and Google are already sponsors, the question is what will Amazon, Dell, IBM, Oracle, and others do next?”

Image: OpenChain

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