Exchange Offers Vendors Open-Source Development

Start-up Collab.Net hopes to cement a place for Web-based community software development among commercial software vendors.

The San Francisco-based company launched an online development exchange with Oracle this week and unveiled an open-source development project with Sun Microsystems the week before that. Analysts said the back-to-back projects signal the growing importance of applying open-source development techniques to commercial software development.

Collab.Net builds and hosts development exchanges for customers that use open-source models. It offers services such as source versioning, source browsing and maintenance of developer contact lists. Developers just have to sign up to get free access.

The exchange with Oracle, called Oracle Technology Network (OTN) Xchange, gives member developers access to Oracle development contract projects, jobs and sample code. Oracle officials said they want to foster a resource community for Oracle developers and might consider outsourcing some software development projects if the exchange proves successful.

Stacey Quandt, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., said an abundance of application development projects, coupled with a severe shortage of developers, was the driving force behind Collab.Net's Oracle and Sun projects.

"This signals the present need for the outsourcing of application development," she said. "Oracle is not opening up the source code for Oracle8i, but by releasing some source code, it hopes to create a community, albeit a walled one, around application developers."

To give its fledgling StarOffice productivity suite a boost, Sun said it plans to release the source code for the desktop application suite via Collab.Net in October. Collab.Net will manage the StarOffice community development efforts, which will include tasks such as specifying application programming interfaces and file formats.

Bill Claybrook, an analyst at Aberdeen Group Inc. in Boston, said the successful management of a project the size of StarOffice could answer doubts about the feasibility of open-source developers enhancing commercial software.

"This will be the largest project inside of Collab.Net, in terms of lines of code and size," said Claybrook. "It's still an experiment, but the fact that [Sun is] doing this gives credence to open-source development."

"One thing that I'm happy about with open sourcing is that anyone with technical resources can make a port of StarOffice to any platform," said Chad Larson, president of DCF Inc., a computer consulting firm in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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