Free and Open Source Software provides the fundamental building blocks for most of today's and tomorrow's software solutions, being them commercial or not. FOSS has become ubiquitous.
FOSS software components are inter-connected. While writing, compiling, testing, installing or customizing a component, a developer is often led to propose modifications to other FOSS components that are outside of his direct reach. Software has become transparent: complex systems built out of FOSS components can be opened up and fully scrutinized, from the system level down to the single memory word of data or code, with no artificial barriers imposed by the absence of access to the sources of vital components.
FOSS has changed for ever the way how software is developed, maintained, and deployed. Affordable high-speed internet for everyone, and the applications coming with it, have paved the way for new interaction patterns between users, developers, researches and other stakeholders. FOSS developers communicate and collaborate via any combination of e-mail, instant messaging, phone and video-conferencing. They share information either directly or through wikis, forums, or indirectly, through search engines or news aggregators. Collaboration between geographically distributed developers, of paramount importance for FOSS, goes hand in hand with new collaborative tools like distributed version control systems, or software forges. New degrees of collaboration between developers need new generations of tools.
Software development as FOSS raises questions that go beyond the problems known from proprietary software: some new issues are raised by the different development process; others are due to different economic models, and some very challenging ones originate in the new possibilities opened by the fact that software is now becoming transparent.
The mission of IRILL, the Center for Research and Innovation on Free Software, is to bring together in one place leading researchers and scientists, expert FOSS developers, and FOSS industry players to tackle the three fundamental challenges that FOSS poses today:
- scientific: study, explore and solve the new problems raised by the development, maintenance and wildly varying evolution process of the large mass of code that FOSS gives access to
- educational: adapt curricula for users, system administrators, and developers to prepare them for a computing infrastructure in which FOSS plays a prime role.
- ecomomic: contribute to create a sustainable ecosystem for the FOSS innovations
IRILL's mission is to foster exchange of knowledge between FOSS developer communities and computer science researchers: new problems coming from the FOSS world will feed the work of researchers who are eager not only to find innovative solutions, but also to turn these solutions into tools that will improve the real-world, daily work of the FOSS communities. Developers and researchers will bring in their joint expertise to create new course materials for computing courses.