CollabNet Offers Open-Source App-Development Model For Smaller Companies

CollabNet Team Edition lets companies with fewer than 50 programmers create collaborative work environments to let programmers access code and share documentation.
Open source isn't just influencing how companies buy and use software; it's also having an impact on how software is developed. As companies build increasingly complex and integrated applications across globally disbursed locations, the open-source model of distributed application development is taking hold.

To accommodate these needs, particularly within small and medium businesses, CollabNet Inc. on Tuesday introduced a version of its distributed application-development service aimed at teams with fewer than 50 programmers. CollabNet Team Edition lets companies create collaborative work environments for their programmers, where they can access code and share documentation.

CollabNet hosts and manages the software used to create these environments, which programmers access via secure Web sites. "It became apparent to us that the average team size is between 10 and 15 developers," says Chris Clabaugh, CollabNet's VP of business development. "Smaller companies actually have a larger problem, in terms of making sure they're on time and on budget. If they miss, it has a much bigger impact on their organization than it would on an enterprise."

CollabNet has since 2000 offered an Enterprise Edition of its hosted collaborative development environment that's used by large companies, including investment firm Barclays Global Investors and Hewlett-Packard, for the tech giant's Collaborative Development Program. Enterprise Edition customers create a customized portal that can include their company's logo and offers developers and managers access via a secure Web connection to a variety of different application-development projects companywide, depending on the user's access profile.

CollabNet founder and chief technology officer Brian Behlendorf helped create Enterprise Edition based on his experiences working with the open-source Apache Web Server Project. Behlendorf's thinking was that the open-source model of code sharing could be applied to commercial software development environments. "CIOs want visibility and access to distributed resources on a global basis," CollabNet president and CEO Bill Portelli says.

If CollabNet Enterprise Edition is a house, where users can customize and organize development projects as they please, Team Edition is more like an apartment, where programmers have access to a basic Web environment with little customization, Clabaugh says. Much like an apartment, Team Edition is also priced to help companies get in on the ground floor. Team Edition costs $65 per month per user, with a minimum of five users, while Enterprise Edition costs $175 per month per user, with a minimum of 100 users.

Demand for better ways to organize application-development projects is being driven by the increasingly distributed nature of those projects and their growing complexity. The use of offshore programmers, for example, drives the need for collaborative, Web-based environments such as CollabNet, Portelli says, adding, "We can break down barriers and turn time zones into an advantage by creating a 24-by-7 development and test environment."

The demand to build Web services that instruct applications to interact automatically is also a driver for collaborative development environments. "If you don't figure out how to make your applications interoperate, you're not going to be successful as a company," Portelli says. When code is available across development teams, a shared portal helps them work in concert.

CollabNet isn't the only provider of a collaborative application-development environment modeled after open source. VA Software Corp., which manages the open-source development site, has for several years offered a collaborative software-development platform called SourceForge Enterprise Edition that companies can use internally. One of the key differences between SourceForge and CollabNet is that VA Software offers SourceForge as an application that customers install on their own networks rather than access as a hosted service.

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