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Open Source Software Up the Stack

Dennis Byron

Collabnet Acquires SourceForge Enterprise Edition: The Powers Behind the Pure

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I am not sure whether this is an open source software (OSS) culture or OSS business subject. And the fact that it is hard to tell says something about the OSS movement.

VA Software has completed its transition from information technology (IT) supplier to solely being the “MySpace for Hackers.� VA Software—the parent of Open Source Technology Group (OSTG)—has sold the software business related to SourceForge Enterprise Edition to Collabnet. SourceForge Enterprise Edition is a J2EE-based integrated development environment providing project documentation, development process controls, and visibility into project status for in-house IT departments. SourceForge Enterprise Edition was the remnant of the original VA business, VA Linux, a company that sold Linux-based hardware and related services from 1995 to 2001. Ironically, given where VA Software has moved to, SourceForge Enterprise Edition is not an OSS project.

This asset transaction leaves VA basically in the media business with the popular open source software (OSS) web destinations freshmeat.net, Slashdot.org, linux.com, newsforge.com, and itmanagersjournal.com [sorry--cut and paste them; they are competitors :) ]. VA also retains the site sourceforge.net (as opposed to the software product). VA will own a piece of Collabnet and Collabnet signed a 30-month agreement to advertise with OSTG, presumably on sourceforge.net.

Collabnet, on the other hand, spun out of the media business in 1999. Tim O’Reilly, of technical book fame, and Brian Behlendorf, who is now CTO, were founders. Behlendorf had previously been CTO of Organic Online, a Web design and engineering consultancy, co-founded and contributed heavily to the Apache Web Server Project, co-founded and supported the VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language) effort, and assisted several IETF working groups, particularly the HTTP standardization effort. Before starting Organic, Behlendorf was the first Chief Engineer at Wired Magazine and later HotWired. Behlendorf is currently a Director of the Mozilla Foundation and a retired Director and President of the Apache Software Foundation.

Collabnet offers a product of the same name competitive to SourceForge Enterprise Edition. Collabnet became a factor—perhaps the leading factor—in OSS lifecycle management with its 2003 sponsorship of the Subversion OSS version control project; Subversion underlies Collabnet’s commercial product offering. The current president and CEO of Collabnet is Bill Portelli, a long time executive at Cadence, the electronic design automation folks (that is, he is from an application area where version and quality control really mean something). Subversion is “housed� at tigris.org (run by Collabnet of course as are many other OSS sites) and is licensed under Debian guidelines (essentially GPL V2 but there is likely some arcane difference or they would have been more specific).

With VA assuming an equity position in Collabnet, it joins Benchmark Capital, O’Reilly New Ventures, and Norwest Ventures as lead investors in Collabnet. If you follow all this interlocking connection between advertising, content, and OSS technology, you realize how completely commercialism has taken over OSS from the community.

Dennis Byron’s blog on open source software: A longtime market research analyst follows what “the movement� means to business integration—in applications, infrastructure, as services, as architecture and as functionality.

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