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Red Hat In Boston, Part 2.2: Forges Or Exchanges?

Conference summaries can be so misleading. When I saw a note in the Thursday schedule for "Exchange strategies for open source software", a part of me wondered if they meant <em>that</em> Exchange. No -- this was about creating a software exchange on the order of <a href="http://www.sugarcrm.com" target="_blank">SugarCRM</a>'s <a href="http://www.sugarexchange.com/" target="_blank">SugarExchange</a>, a marketplace for SugarCRM extensions and add-ons. After all, what's an open source project --

Serdar Yegulalp

June 20, 2008

2 Min Read

Conference summaries can be so misleading. When I saw a note in the Thursday schedule for "Exchange strategies for open source software", a part of me wondered if they meant that Exchange. No -- this was about creating a software exchange on the order of SugarCRM's SugarExchange, a marketplace for SugarCRM extensions and add-ons. After all, what's an open source project -- especially something of SugarCRM's proportions -- without community contributions?

As hosted by SugarCRM's Paul Oh, the session delved into the reasons for creating SugarExchange in the first place, as well as the difference between SugarExchange and SugarCRM's other project-hosting system, SugarForge. The big difference between the two: the Forge, like another similar service that starts with Source-, is for hosting SugarCRM-related projects that are in development, and that are explicitly licensed as open source.  Exchange, on the other hand, is for polished commercial products, whether available either under open- or closed-source licensing.

So why exchanges in the first place? Oh put it this way: they're not just catalogs, but communities -- they allow people to not only experience software as offered under a particular aegis, but connect with others about it and provide feedback that's more than just "this sucks / this rocks." Also, not all exchanges are FOSS-oriented; the concept is bigger than any one licensing scheme or application.

This is actually one of the big reasons Oh cited for why SugarCRM has their Forge and their Exchange as distinct entities. "Separation of church and state" (or maybe cathedral and bazaar?) was how he put it -- the worlds of software development and software marketing need to be both fostered in ways that don't stomp on each other's feet.

One surprising trend he pointed out was the number of folks who come from exclusively proprietary-software backgrounds (like Salesforce.com) and are worried that they'll have to relicense their products as open source if they want to offer them on the Exchange. This isn't the case, of course, but it's yet another example of how misperceptions about open source can persist even in -- and especially in -- the exact same professional environments where it's gaining so much traction.

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Serdar Yegulalp

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