Oregon State brings open source into academic fold

Oregon State University is giving its Open Source Lab a major promotion, moving it from a services role within the university into an academic department as part of the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Several high-profile tech companies sponsor Oregon State’s lab.

The switch will raise the Corvallis lab’s profile and involve dozens more students every year in a program that helped make Oregon a global hub for open source activity.

Oregon State started the lab 10 years ago to make it easier for university departments to use open source software as an alternative to proprietary tools.

Open source software is typically developed collaboratively and often free, open to modification by anyone. That means basic software tools can be had inexpensively and customized to meet specific needs.

The lab quickly grew beyond that basic function, hosting a variety of open source projects and providing student employees with hands-on experience on prominent open source endeavors.

For a time, its servers hosted the kernel for most influential open source project, the Linux operating system, and the lab continues to host about 75 others. The lab’s sponsors include IBM, Facebook and Google, which contributed $300,000 to the lab last year.

But in the era of cloud computing, server space is no longer a premium service. And the lab had ambitions beyond working with the dozen students who help staff the center.

See Page 2 for details on how many students will benefit from the university’s open source initiative and be sure to take our poll on Page 3…