VA Linux Reveals Online Collaboration Platform

Hoping to encourage Fortune 500 firms to take on more open-source development projects, VA Linux Systems Inc. on Tuesday debuted a turn-key collaboration system that allows thousands of engineers across an enterprise to work more efficiently and cost-effectively.

The new subscription-based service is centered around VA Linux's SourceForge development environment, a Web-based, integrated development environment that features code reuse and archiving, communications capabilities to all distributed development teams, and the option to standardize on one tool set.

The company will wrap its existing Linux-based server hardware, SourceForge, and a series of services as a bundled solution. VA Linux will also provide support for its own products as well as those from other vendors.

''We think this will enhance productivity by giving more engineers visibility to each other's software projects, thereby eliminating the possibility of reinventing the wheel inside their own companies,'' said John T. Hall, vice president of strategic planning for VA Linux in Fremont, Calif.

Based on feedback from its users, VA Linux officials claim that 15 percent of most large IT shop's labor and engineering costs are due to turnover of personnel who often leave with valuable knowledge because of a lack of collaboration.

''All the work an engineer does -- such as the bugs they check, the code they check in and out, and e-mails they send -- can all be archived in a universal system that is searchable. We think it can be used as a knowledge management system that minimizes the cost of key engineers turning over or changing jobs,'' Hall said.

Some of SourceForge OnSite features include bug tracking, patch management, task management, source control, code sharing, document management, and statistical reporting, a spokesman said.

Using the environment, managers can review project reports to a fine level, the company claimed. For instance, they can closely monitor a group's progress on bug fixing, how well they are collaborating and where they could do so better, and see which engineers are the best at working on various technologies.

In concert with Tuesday's announcement, VA Linux announced that Agilent Technologies central research lab has signed a deal to use SourceForge OnSite to manage and support its worldwide development teams.

''Given the growth in both the size and scope of our collaborative development projects, we had a need for a centralized, scalable environment that supports geographically distributed teams,'' said William Shreve, director of Agilent's Systems and Solutions Laboratories in Palo Alto, Calif.

Agilent, formerly part of Hewlett-Packard Laboratories, typically conducts applied research in communications, measurement, healthcare, and bioscience.

As part of its services, VA Linux will supply users with training, system maintenance upgrades, ongoing support, and help with integrating its products with those from other enterprise-level vendors.

Hall said he hopes that the new environment can do for collaborative engineering what ERP (enterprise resource planning) did for managing manufacturing supply chains and what CRM (customer relationship management) did for sales and support departments.

''Software engineering now is where large-scale manufacturing was in the late 1980s before ERP came along. We think these sorts of collaborative systems can have the same impact on engineering departments,'' Hall said.www.sourceforge.net.

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