I have often wondered how a commercial company builds an Open Source Suite out of a collection of open source projects. At the last BI SIG meeting Ian Fyfe Chief Technology Evangelist at Pentaho told us how they do it and gave some interesting insights on how Open Source really works. Pentaho offers a Open Source Business Intelligence suite that includes the Kettle data integration project, the Mondrian OLAP project and the WETA data mining project amongst other projects.
As Ian explained, Pentaho controls these Open Source projects because it employs the project leader and major contributors to each of the projects. In some cases Pentaho also owns the copyright of the code. In other cases, any ownership is in doubt, because there have been too many contributors and or what they have contributed has not been managed well enough to be able to say who owns the code. Mondrian is an example of an Open Source project where there have been enough contributors that it is not possible to take control of the whole source code and exert any real rights over it.
The real control that Pentaho exerts over the Open Source components of its suites is that it gets to say what their roadmap is and how they will evolve in the future. As I noted, Pentaho is driving the various projects to a common metadata layer so that they can become integrated as a single suite of products.