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Software Heritage

Léa Angeli - 30/06/2016

Collect, organise, preserve and share the Software Heritage of mankind

Inria announces today the Software Heritage project, an ambitious initiative to collect, organise, preserve, and make easily accessible any already publicly available source code.

Sending messages to our family and friends, paying bills, purchasing goods, accessing entertainment, interacting with the public administration, finding information, booking travels: practically every act of our daily life relies on computers and software to be performed.

That is just the tip of the iceberg: software controls the electronic equipment embedded in the machines we use to travel, communicate, trade and exchange. 

Software lies at the heart of medical equipment and devices; software ensures proper operation of the power, transportation, and telecommunication networks; software powers banks and financial institutions; software is just crucial for the proper operation of large organizations, be them public or private, in mobile devices or in the cloud.

In a word, software is today a key enabler for all aspects of our modern world: our industry, our science, our lifestyle, and all of our society depend on software.

A societal, technical and scientific challenge

Inria unveils today the Software Heritage project, whose goal is to build at the same time a modern « library of Alexandria » of software, a unique reference data base of all source code, a tool for new software projects and a research instrument for Computer Science: a societal, technical and scientific challenge.

Software Heritage is an essential building block for preserving, enhancing and sharing the scientific and technical knowledge that is increasingly embedded in software; it also contributes to our ability to access all the information stored in digital form.

Software Heritage will adopt a distributed infrastructure in order to ensure long term availability and reliability of its archive.

Software Heritage provides a reference knowledge base for all open source software used in industry, enabling better lifecycle management and long term preservation of industrial software. Once enriched with live update capabilities, Software Heritage is bound to become the reference archive for all industrial users, helping software developers of new software projects find, re-use and archive new source code.

Software Heritage is the foundation on which we can build a unique research instrument for studying all the software source code, enabling significant advances in all domains of computer science, and leading to better quality, security and safety in the software we depend on in our daily lives.

Software Heritage today

Inria, a French national science and technology institution dedicated to computational sciences, has decided to tackle these challenges, and set up a dedicated team and the initial resources to start the project.
As of today, Software Heritage already collected more than 20 million software projects , archiving more than two billions and a half unique source files . Together with all their development history, this is the richest collection of source code on the planet .

Antoine Petit, INRIA’s CEO , says

We decided to start working on Software Heritage more than a year ago, and we have now shown its feasibility. In order to scale up worldwide, the time has now come to open it up to the widest, national and international contributions

Two early partners have already committed their support to Software Heritage , and will help it grow: Microsoft, one of the largest software industries in the world, and DANS, an institution of the Royal Academy of the Arts and Sciences and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, dedicated to preserving and promoting sustained access to digital research data.

Microsoft has been involved in open source initiatives by enabling, integrating, releasing and contributing to many open source projects and communities for well over a decade ,” says Jean Paoli, General Manager at Microsoft Corp . “We applaud Software Heritage as an open project that will help curate and conserve human knowledge in the form of code for future generations as well as help today’s generations of developers find and re-use code worldwide. We are proud to be one of the first industry partners for this initiative and to provide the Azure infrastructure to ensure the data is highly available.

Software Sustainability is one of the core elements to accelerate discovery. Reproducibility of scientific results, but also re-usability and findability of software are core principles in science DANS seeks to support ” says Peter Doorn, Director of DANS . “We are committed to long-time preservation of scientific information and are delighted to be the first international academic partner to support the mission of Software Heritage”.

We are all concerned, everybody can contribute

Software Heritage has already been endorsed by scientists, industry players, learned societies, foundations, as well as a variety of organisations, both public and private.

After launching the project, having shown its feasibility, and established the first partnerships, Inria is now calling all stakeholders worldwide to join. Inria opens the project’s website:  

 Software Heritage is an ambitious project that requires contributions from multiple players:

  • Collecting all the software : help us identify the thousand different sites where the world’s software heritage is now spread around.
  • Contribute to developing the infrastructure : the Software Heritage team has a long tradition of collaboration, and is well known in the free and open source arena; in the coming days, we are going to open up our own source code to the world, and we will welcome the developers that share our vision and want to help in this mission.
  • Solving the scientific challenges coming with the development of a universal source code archive from disparate information will require new insights; the participation of researchers from all disciplines will be instrumental to succeed.
  • Preserving in the long term and sharing with the world the contents of the archive requires significant resources, in terms of manpower, infrastructure and funding, as well as partners all over the world.

Getting involved in Software Heritage is a unique chance to tackle a major challenge for society, to support an initiative with a global reach and to participate in the preservation of our global software heritage.

Keywords: Software heritage Source code