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Enterprise Open Source Gets Some Guidance

It has been a big summer for enterprise-oriented, online, open source directories (or repositories or marketplaces). Three companies recently launched new and very different Web-based services designed to provide enterprises and coders with a central access point for a wide range of open source software and resources.

Optaros, a Boston-based consulting and systems integration firm, launched its free online Enterprise Open Source (EOS) directory last week. Designed to help corporations search and select the open source software that best meets their business and technology requirements, the EOS directory bridges the gap between the traditional corporate RFP process and the open source community, which does not usually participate in that process, explains Dave Gynn, Optaros's director of enterprise tools and frameworks.

"Enterprises don't know how to choose open source software," Gynn said. "They don't get phone calls from open source projects. [Open sourcers] don't take them golfing and pitch product packages."

Optaros advises companies on open source software, and offers an alternative to the "build vs. buy" decision with preselected software stacks that take company's "80 percent of the way," Gynn said. The result is a nearly custom-made solution.

"It's as though you built it from scratch, but the economics work out better," he said.

Originally launched in January as a project called the Open Source Catalogue 2007, the EOS provides corporations with expert and user ratings, case studies, forums and requests for advice based on functionality, community backing, project trends and maturity of technology.

Ohloh, an open source software resource, recently announced a new online software directory with an interesting wrinkle: it's designed to function as a social networking site that links the contributors and end-users of open source software.

The Ohloh site combines community-driven content with a source-code crawler that monitors open source software development activity, explained Scott Collison, Ohloh's CEO and cofounder.

"The open source community puts the project on the system. They tell us where the source control system is, and the crawler extracts information from the systems," he said. "That's how we collect the fundamental data, not only on projects, but on the people who develop those projects."

The two-year-old company's directory actually went live last July, but you had to be an open source insider to hear about it.

"Instead of trying to hype the company artificially, we decided to rely on word of mouth," he said. "People started using the site, and those people invited others onto the site, and then quotes from our numbers and information about projects started appearing in other places, and slowly we've built a very solid following."

Collison estimates that the Ohloh directory is now tracking about 7,000 open source applications.

"For developers and technical people, having a data-driven social network is something that's important," he added. "Having the stats on them and the applications they use is absolutely unique. It adds them, in effect, to the resource pool, and also allows them to be evaluated on the actual work they did."

DevZuz, a provider of open source client-side tooling for component assembly and life-cycle management, has launched its Community-oriented Real-time Engineering Network (CoRE). A community-based portal, CoRE hosts open source projects, providers, and users to bring together open source communities and commercial enterprises.

DevZuz is a spinoff from venture partner Simula Labs, a company that puts together open source commercial ventures. Simula Labs started Gluecode, which IBM purchased in 2005. The DevZuz flagship product, Maestro, is a framework for building software in distributed development environments using the best practices of artifact-driven, component-based engineering used in open source communities.

DevZuz also hosts a library and search engine of more than 17,000 open source software artifacts. It's available for free, but the company also offers subscription services for certified artifacts that include access to digital signature, IP verification, code scanning and export compliance management capabilities.

"In the current climate, technically savvy enterprise businesses have stopped asking whether it is a good idea to adopt open source, and are starting to ask when, how and where open source can fit into their IT infrastructure," stated Winston Damarillo, executive chairman of DevZuz and managing partner of Simula Labs. "[W]e strongly believe that rapid, collaborative open source development practices represent the future of software development, and we will provide the shortest, most elegant route between open source and the enterprise."

These three announcements are examples of an established trend heading in a new direction, said Gartner analyst Mark Driver.

"This kind of thing has been going on in the noncommercial space for a long time," he explained. "Now these and other vendors are trying to translate the approach of many successful open source projects for commercial users."

Services like those provided by Optaros, Ohloh and DevZuz cast these vendors into the roles of subcontractors, who put together software stacks, people and resources for third parties, Driver observed.

"These vendors are making it possible for enterprises to leverage, not just the code, but the tool and best practices of the developer communities," Driver said. "The things that are required by distributed open source teams with developers working all over the world are exactly the things enterprises are going to want if they're outsourcing or offshoring portions of their IT. This is a model that I'd expect to catch on."

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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