Many open-source projects would love to offer a hosted version of their products, but lack the resources to be able to do so. SourceForge, the world's largest repository of open-source projects, is therefore stepping into the void to host open-source applications.
The company actually announced this new program in October 2008, initially with just three applications: LimeSurvey, MediaWiki, and phpBB. Since then, SourceForge has added another half-dozen or so applications, and plans to grow the service further.
In a conversation I had on Thursday with Ross Turk, SourceForge community manager, I suggested that this could be a way for SourceForge to more effectively monetize its SourceForge.net asset. (Currently, the company advertises on the site, including on the applications it hosts.) Why not charge commercial open-source vendors to host their projects? Or why not charge users for access to hosted applications?
Turk responded that SourceForge doesn't have any current plans to charge for the Hosted Applications service, preferring to keep its model focused on advertising. Given the company's recent success in this area, I can understand. I still believe, however, that users and commercial open-source companies would happily pay for the service. Something for the company to consider....
The service isn't for everyone, of course. SugarCRM, for example, has made hosting a central part of its offering, and currently 30 percent of its customers pay SugarCRM to host their Sugar deployments. But for those projects that aren't ready to build out their own hosting infrastructure, or would simply prefer to offload that task to someone with more expertise, SourceForge Hosted Applications may be a viable option.
It's also an option that I suspect others like Google Code will take up. As open-source project repositories seek to differentiate themselves, hosting is almost certainly going to be a differentiating service. Just as Amazon has packaged up its excess computing capacity in its EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) service so, too, can I see Google using its excess server capacity to host open-source projects.
For now, SourceForge stands alone in offering to host its tenants applications. In the future? Well, anything is possible.
Disclosure: I am an advisor to SugarCRM.
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