An online marketplace for technology professionals to buy and sell services and support for open source software should provide a global platform for software creators to directly sell packaged support to those who need it.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based open source software development and distribution site SourceForge.net this week launched the marketplace with more than 600 free service listings for open source projects offering service and support.
The goal of the marketplace is to “enable the success of the open source community and create economic opportunities” between creator and consumer of open source technology, said the company’s vice-president and general manager, Mike Rudolph.
The marketplace is intended to provide users with a seamless selling and buying process where sellers are free to name their price, support levels, and service types. It also has a reputation system so buyers and sellers can rate each other after each sale.
The launch follows a public beta that commenced last May, during which users had the opportunity to test a limited amount of site functionality, said Rudolph. The beta period also allowed the company to test the platform, determine appropriate service types and the adequate number of service listings.
Among the main differences between the beta and full version, said Rudolph, is the ability for all registered sellers in good standing to list services, as opposed to requiring an invitation from SourceForge.net.
According to Rudolph, the site gets 25 million unique visitors per month and houses about 160,000 global open source projects.
The marketplace is targeted at both commercially-minded open source projects and small-time developers trying to start a business, he said. “If you want to build a business or if you just want to augment your income you can do it through this marketplace.”
According to Casey Woods, president of Calgary, Alta.-based open source consultancy, IT Infusion Inc., the marketplace is “certainly an interesting idea” but it may not be as effective as the traditional referral.
“In my experience, a small percentage of IT services are rendered to companies that just look me up out of the blue,” he said, adding he gets ample traffic through his blog and other online presence like LinkedIn and Facebook.
The open source business is very much based on referrals, said Woods, primarily because of the lack of awareness around the non-proprietary approach. “Open source software typically doesn’t get implemented unless they get a recommendation from someone who has already implemented it.”
However, Woods said if he were actively looking for additional business, the marketplace “wouldn’t be a bad place to go”.
Open source software typically doesn’t get implemented unless they get a recommendation from someone who has already implemented it.Casey Woods, president>Text According to Reuven Cohen, chief technologist and co-founder of Toronto-based open source consulting firm Enomaly Inc., the marketplace makes sense for the “small developer in a basement who’s cranking out code because what it does is bring visibility.”
However, he added the ability to sell and buy services and support from open source vendors isn’t an entirely new offering from SourceForge.net. “The option to buy services from a particular open source vendor has been there for quite a while.”
Enomaly has been using SourceForge.net for some time, however, “absolutely none of our consulting is through SourceForge,” said Cohen, adding that the company’s strongest lead generator is Google AdWords.
SourceForge.net’s main benefit to users, said Cohen, is the source code repository.
Given that most IT shops are proprietary, Woods said he isn’t sure how many people are actually seeking open source services.
But if anything, the marketplace should help create awareness around open source, said Woods, especially considering SourceForge is likely the biggest open source portal out there that will help connect people with open source experts.
“And so that can’t be a bad thing. Right now, you could do a Google search and realize there’s this great firewall and it runs on open .BSD. But what are you going to do, learn open .BSD?”
Rudolph said the company will continue to develop the site, particularly around making the right listings available to the right buyers at the right time, and enhancing the reputation rating system.