For companies wishing to measure the number of open source applications they are using The Open Source Census has released a free tool which promises to track open source applications in return for data.

The OSS Discovery tool, itself an open source product, forms part of the The Open Source Census, a collaboration to measure open source use in enterprises. The Census is planned as a phased roll out over the first half of 2008 with the goal of learning what open source software is installed on desktops and servers and tracking which open source projects are gaining traction in the enterprise.

OSS Discovery will scan computers and send the scan results back into The Open Source Census database anonymously and free of charge. Once the scans are in, enterprises will have access to reports that summarise their own open source usage and provide comparisons to other similar companies.

So far, OSS Discovery can find about 900 open-source applications as it crawls an enterprise user's IT systems analysing the installed software. Within a year, the group hopes that the tool will be able to track as many as 5,000 applications.

All the basic anonymous aggregate data collected through The Open Source Census will be provided for free on a web site. This aggregate data will list the number of times each project has been installed on computers across all participating enterprises.

Set up by open source vendor Open Logic, the Open Source Census aims to be a collaborative initiative which during the initial is hoping to recruit open source communities, vendors and organizations to join The Open Source Census as co-sponsors.

Those who join will also have access to the anonymous data gathered.

"As a contributor to a number of open source projects such as Apache, Perl, sendmail, PHP, GNU and FreeBSD, I can see great value in viewing first hand how enterprises are using open source projects," said Jim Jagielski, CTO of Covalent Technologies and Chairman of Board of Directors of the Apache Software Foundation (ASF). "The Open Source Census could help new projects - as well as established projects - assess corporate interest and uptake of their projects as well as the inherent vitality of their respective communities."

OSS Discovery can be found here

Interoperability is a big Open Sourceconcern.