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AB - 30/06/2016

Software Heritage: Universal software archive

Inria announces on June 30th 2016 Software Heritage, an ambitious initiative to collect, organise, preserve, and make easily accessible the source code of all software that is publicly available.

By building a universal and sustainable software archive, the goal of Software heritage is to create an essential infrastructure for society, science and industry.

A societal, technical and scientific challenge

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 depends on software.

The Software Heritage project wants 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. Software Heritage is an essential building block for preserving 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 the open source code 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 developers of new software projects find, re-use and archive new source code.

Software is now at the heart of the majority of human activities: from healthcare to entertainment, planes to agriculture... It is therefore legitimate for Inria to address the issue of preserving all software-related knowledge, to help build and conserve world software heritage and to provide access to the latter for industry, science, education and the society at large.

Antoine Petit, CEO of Inria

Software Heritage today : from Inria to Microsoft

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 make it scale it up worldwide, the time has now come to open it up to the widest, national and international contribution ".

Software Heritage has already been endorsed by scientists, industry players, learned societies, foundations, as well as a variety of organisations, both public and private. Besides, two international partners have endorsed the project : Microsoft and DANS, a public institute of the Royal Academy of Netherlands.

We applaud the 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.

Jean Paoli, General Manager at Microsoft Corp.

We are all concerned, everybody can contribute

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

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, and 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.

Keywords: Software heritage Roberto Di Cosmo Data collection Database Software