HP taps CollabNet for open source ideas

Hewlett-Packard Co. is supplying more arms to the open source development community, announcing Monday that it has built an internal developers network based on an open source software platform from CollabNet Inc., a software and consulting company launched by Apache software co-creator Brian Behlendorf.

HP’s printing and imaging division has launched what it calls the Collaborative Development Program (CDP), a proprietary network that links HP’s worldwide employees to collaborate on software development projects. CollabNet’s Web-based development environment also allows HP’s business partners and customers to contribute to the development through a secure connection.

HP first started testing the network in July 2000 with 30 developers. Since then, the program has grown to include more than 100 projects and support for more than 1,200 developers worldwide, according to CollabNet. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but CollabNet said it has signed a one-year term with HP and will continue to charge for consulting support.

“It’s a testament to the power of collaboration within an enterprise,” Bernie Mills, senior vice-president of marketing at CollabNet, said in an interview. “This is a good example of how an enterprise that may not be interested in open sourcing their code can take advantage of (the open source process).”

HP has shown continual support for the open-source model. Early last year it chose CollabNet’s SourceCast software to build an online community where developers can play with its e-Speak source code and design applications around it. HP also contributed to CollabNet’s latest round of financing last year, marking its first investment in an open source company.

Many enterprise customers became aware of the model only recently, in the face of criticism from open source’s most vocal opponent, Microsoft Corp. Many attributes of open source, such as the free distribution of source code, go against the traditions of proprietary software makers.

“There are a lot of good things that have come out of the open source movement, and a lot of that revolves around collaboration and having developers more involved in the process,” said Kathy Quirk, an analyst with Hurwitz Group Inc. “If there’s a process that makes developers more productive, that works out well for everybody.”

CollabNet hosts open source development projects for some of the largest technology companies. Motorola Inc. uses CollabNet’s software package to allow developers to make applications for its phones that use J2ME (Java 2 Platform Micro Edition). Nokia Corp. built a Web site using CollabNet’s platform for developers to create applications for its planned Media Terminal home entertainment system. CollabNet also hosts four developer communities for Sun Microsystems Inc., including one for its peer-to-peer project, Jxta.

CollabNet offers three products based on its SourceCast software. One allows developers to submit a project to be worked on by other open source developers. A second lets corporations build communities in which outside developers can contribute to open source projects. This product includes a branded Web site with development tools, project administrative and management capabilities, as well as legal and technical consulting.

The third platform, of which HP will become the first customer, is the enterprise development network, where the open source development model is used in-house.

“The same backbone technology is being applied here inside the enterprise,” Mills said. Additional security measures have been rolled into the platform so customers can manage which developers can access specific parts of the code under development. Also, the platform allows companies to choose their own software development tools besides the ones that come embedded in the product.

CollabNet has faced setbacks in the past few months as it works to develop a viable business model. The online marketplace it helped launch for open source projects, SourceXchange, closed its doors last month. The site acted as a brokerage for deals between open source software projects and programmers – a model that became the basis for CollabNet.

But SourceXchange’s demise wasn’t the end for CollabNet. Mills said the company is doing fine financially and new deals with enterprise customers will bring new opportunities. The company also has plenty of cash left from US$35 million funding it raised last June from a group of nine technology vendors, including Sun, Intel Corp. and Oracle Corp., he said.

CollabNet, based in Brisbane, Calif., can be reached at http://www.collab.net. HP, with Canadian headquarters in Mississauga, Ont., can be reached at http://www.hp.com.