Work to start soon on open-source lab

Work is scheduled to begin soon on the independent Open Source Development Lab in Portland, Ore., touted by its organizers as a place to promote open-source software collaboration and growth.

Sources close to the lab are keeping details, including the exact location of the facility, quiet until work officially begins.

Announced in August by a group of corporate backers, including Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp., Intel Corp. and NEC Corp., the multimillion-dollar lab is envisioned as a place where Linux and other open-source developers from around the world can have free access to high-end computer hardware for code-testing and collaboration.

Organizers have been meeting weekly to make final plans, create an organizational structure and secure a site that’s independent from the lab’s backers, according to Dan Frye, program director of IBM’s Linux Technology Centers in Somers, N.Y.

This month the site will be announced, as well as the person who will be the lab’s manager.

“Clearly, hardware will not be in that time frame,” said Mike Balma, a spokesperson for HP. Organizers hope to have the lab up and running in the first quarter of next year, he said.

Bill Claybrook, an analyst at Aberdeen Group Inc. in Boston, said the lab’s premise could be a boon to future Linux development.

“I think, over the long haul, it should really help significantly,” by creating a place where the focus can be placed on readying Linux for large-scale enterprise computing by improving the scalability and availability of major-brand applications, Claybrook said.

Others are less sure about whether the lab can help bring about such progress.

One software developer, who asked not to be named, said Linux developers haven’t had trouble getting the latest machines to test their code because hardware companies are often willing to give access to needed equipment. He said their payback is that if the software is successful, the vendors can advertise that their hardware supports it.

“From a pure geek/hacker point of view, I don’t see where [the lab] is incredibly useful or moves mountains, because [Linux developers] can always find a way to get it done,” the developer said.

The lab will be accessible to developers around the world through Internet connections or on-site visits, said Seth Walker, an Intel spokesman.

“This is the entity that everyone in the industry is looking toward to help bring everybody together,” Walker said.

The four partner companies are providing personnel and millions of dollars in seed money to get the project started, although an exact figure hadn’t been disclosed at press time.

“The important thing for us is [making sure] that we had space that was neutral – that wasn’t on any company’s campus,” Walker said.

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