An empirical study on off-the-shelf component usage in industrial projects
Using OTS (Off-The-Shelf) components in software projects has become increasing popular in the IT industry. After project managers opt for OTS components, they can decide to use COTS (Commercial-Off-The-Shelf) components or OSS (Open Source Software) components instead of building these themselves. This paper describes an empirical study on why project decision-makers use COTS components instead of OSS components, or vice versa. The study was performed in form of an international survey on motivation and risks of using OTS components, conducted in Norway, Italy and Germany. We have currently gathered data on 71 projects using only COTS components and 39 projects using only OSS components, and 5 using both COTS and OSS components. Results show that both COTS and OSS components were used in small, medium and large software houses and IT consulting companies. The overall software system also covers several application domains. Both COTS and OSS were expected to contribute to shorter time-to-market, less development effort and the application of newest technology. However, COTS users believe that COTS component should have good quality, technical support, and will follow the market trend. OSS users care more about the free ownership and openness of the source code. Projects using COTS components had more difficulties in estimating selection effort, following customer requirement changes, and controlling the component's negative effect on system security. On the other hand, OSS user had more difficulties in getting the support reputation of OSS component providers.