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VA Linux to Sell Proprietary Version of Sourceforge 267

Cassivs writes: "There's an article claiming that VA Linux is planning on selling a proprietary, closed-source version of SourceForge, SourceForge Enterprise Edition. See the letter to SourceForge members assuring them that VA Linux will continue to provide free hosting/etc. at SourceForge. They will also continue to maintain a GPL version of the code, SourceForge Open Edition." VA is Slashdot's corporate parent.
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VA Linux to Sell Proprietary Version of Sourceforge

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  • not really news... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by UM_Maverick ( 16890 ) on Friday August 24, 2001 @08:18AM (#2212725) Homepage
    This really isn't a big deal. Linux/dot-com company sells new product. Where's the story? The only reason this got posted is because hundreds of readers would have moaned and griped if it didn't, saying "slashdot is censorware!"...

    As a side note, does anybody know of any companies that are actually using sourceforge enterprise for interenal development?
    • No, but I *do* know of many "software" companies which don't even know of such things :P

      More dilbert, anyone?
    • As a side note, does anybody know of any companies that are actually using sourceforge enterprise for interenal development?

      Yeah, HP, according to the article. I've also read elsewhere that a large NY investment bank was using SourceForge - Morgan Stanley IIRC.

      It's a good thing, for those who care about VA Linux. If those two large clients see benefits from using SourceForge, it could present LNUX with an important foothold on both coasts, in the IT as well as the financial market. Not a bad deal.

    • Of course it is news (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Not that VA is necessarily doing something bad, but that this is quite a change in their direction.

      "We are firmly committed []
      to Open Source development as a methodology for creating better
      software, faster."
      -- Dr. Larry M. Augustin, president and CEO of VA Linux Systems, as quoted in a September 2000 press release.

      Later down that press release we learn that "VA Linux Systems'
      mission is to make its customers successful through the use of Linux
      and Open Source -- whether they are e-businesses rapidly expanding
      their Internet infrastructures, or technology companies leveraging the
      power and methodology of Open Source software development. As part of its commitment to expanding the Open Source community, VA Linux
      Systems operates the Open Source Development Network (OSDN)."

      Take all the references to "Open Source" out, and you have a more accurate and to-the-point statement of what seems to be their current mission.
      • "We are firmly committed to Open Source development as a methodology for creating better software, faster." [] -- Dr. Larry M. Augustin, president and CEO of VA Linux Systems, as quoted in a September 2000 press release.

        He stated an even more extreme pro-open source position recently, in the Open Source Roundtable []. On June 26, he wrote that Microsoft should place all its software under the GPL: "Frankly, I'm surprised Microsoft doesn't adopt the GPL for all of the software it releases to the public."

        Now, less than two months later, his company has decided that it's not going to use the GPL for all of its own software. In June, even Microsoft Office should have been GPLed; in August, not even developer tools should be GPLed. It is quite a turnaround.

    • Sure it's news... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by duffbeer703 ( 177751 )
      A leading "Open-Source" company is taking the work of the "community", repackaging it into a closed-source product and selling it corporations and government as a proprietary product.

      It is news because it highlights the death of the "Free Software" large-scale business model.

      • Not sure if there is really a lot of work of the "community" in the Sourceforge, sure there have been some patch submited mainly in localisation, but the bulk of the work has been done by the Sourceforge team, and many have complained that the development has not been that open and transparent. There have been an article about this in Slashdot last year but don't remember exactly when.
      • Actually, you are not right on this at all, VA cannot take the rwork of the community donated under the GPL and repackge it as closed source. The GPL doesn't allow for that. Also, keep in mind that the GPL version still exists. I think you can still apt-get the site under debian.

        That said, VA is makeing propietary the things (mostly) that tie into proprietary software. Things like rational and the rest.

        Chris DiBona

        (Speaking for VA)

        • You are correct, of course, they cannot directly re-license the work of independent developers. Not directly, anyway.

          They CAN stop contributing to the GPL-version (they ARE the primary contributors) and extend the functionality of the application with proprietary modules. Who is to say those proprietary modules will not provide "enhanced" functionality that GPL'd code currently provides?

          The notion that the GPL can keep software free is a myth. The same tactics GNU uses to knockoff proprietary software can be used to proprietize GNU software. This job is even easier, since the source is available.

          The difficult part of creating software is designing it, tweaking it and finding/removing performance bottlenecks. The actual coding is not nearly as difficult. This why people & organizations patent the application of certain algorithms to certain problems.
    • It is news. It's an insult. They are just fostering the myth that open source is cute and fun for hippie-types, but not viable for a serious company. The model [] is free the software, but sell the support and the customizations. You're good name, if you retain it, will bring in the revenue.
      • The model [] is free the software, but sell the support and the customizations.

        That's an inherently non-scalable model. For every dollar you make, you have to pay a significant fraction of a dollar. It's a recipe for a small privately held company where only the founders make any significant money and they must rely on the labors of wage slaves who have no reasonable hope of significant reward through equity.

        The non-scalable model does not pay for the large R&D expenditures needed to produce significant software, which is why most open source projects of medium or large size lag far behind their commercial counterparts. This is also why the open source archives contain mostly half-finished toy projects whose year-old "to do" page states simply "I intend to rewrite this from scratch."

        Open source is over. Get over it.

        • Bah. (*waves paw* ;) )

          Quaint of you to think that all significant software is _invented_ by large commercial entities with large R+D expenditures. I'm not sure if I can think of a single case to support you. From PageMaker to AutoCAD to the Web itself, the significant software starts out as one of the half-finished toy projects because corporate innovation is over: get over it. Things are too competitive now to risk _real_ R+D. Apple blew over a million dollars developing OpenDoc and the Cyberdog set of component Internet tools- and got armtwisted into using IE officially, and threw away what they had done. Even Microsoft is going to fail with .NET... and X-Box. Corporate innovation is over until such time when the struggle for survival lessens and allows money to be wasted on research again. Currently it's corporate suicide.

    • by Manax ( 41161 )
      ibm [] seems to be using it for some [] of their open source projects [].

      BTW, what the heck is the "postercomment compression filter" and what is it I could have violated? ...

  • After the trolls post countless comments, and everyone already knows about it and us RESENTING you. Post a story about it. A nice fluff PR piece. Guys, we're losing it. Sourceforge isn't the Sourceforge I grew up with. Tis sad. Lets just hope /. continues the high level of professionalism it always has.

    I do feel for the guys though, watching your stock drop, having to basically shutdown VA, that couldn't of been fun. Oh, and they've got all of us laughing our asses off. Its just cruel

  • Is it allowed under the GPL to make money?

    that was sarcasm by the way, though I am sure this will anger many zealots.
  • by hyrdra ( 260687 ) on Friday August 24, 2001 @08:21AM (#2212736) Homepage Journal
    A closed source version of an open source community? Quite the oxymoron.
    • Actually, lets hope that VA does make money selling this "closed source" version which I really doubt will be closed as in source,

      but more so, it will probably just not be open as in anyone can get into it.

      Let's think about:

      1. One of the main costs of software development is Development!

      2. has been a model of code development and they have seen all the bugs, be their hardware or wetware, that anyone is likely to see.

      3. Let them use the skill they have in running, maintaining, whaever,...that it takes to keep sourceforge running and apply it clients who are developing code

      4. As business go to to more and more te,mo hired work, I cant thinki of a better way for companies that develop software, whether for inhouse or for outhouse[sorry :) ] then use the tools that the opensource community has helped develop.

      In short, it makes all the sense in the wolrd to use the open source lessons learned and apply it to ther other endeavors, esp the important matter of making money.

      Anyway, thanks
    • I think that the way you state it is oxymoronic. That said, selling open source software is also pretty nutty too.

      The funny thing is that people who have thier own reasons for keeping thier software proprietary still want to take advantage of the oss development model, within thier own organization.

      One customer (who I think we are announcing next week, but I might be wrong, so mums the word on their name) has something like 4000 programmers internally, all of them in thier own groups, often using different version control/progrect management/bug tracking etc. Want to bet that they are repeating work all the time? Anyhow, this company saw the way things were done in OSS and said, hey that's pretty good. So...tehre you go...a closedd open soruce community.

      Strange world...indeed.

      Chris DiBona

      (Speaking for VA)

  • so, the product has been GPL'd and open-sourced for a while now, and it's a collection of contributed elements from a presumably wide array of developers.. Now the company says "well, we need money, so we're going to take the codebase and sell it for profit." Is that fair to all the open-source developers out there that basically worked for free?

    The current project team of sourceforge is listed as:

    Ariel Garza, Tim Perdue, Dominick Bellizzi,Chad Schwartz, Dan Bressler, James Byers, Jim Gleason, John Mark Walker, Marc, Trae McCombs, Jacob Moorman, Ze Arruda, Patrick McGovern, Paul Sokolovsky, Uriah Welcome, Darrell Brogdon

    are all these people employed by VA? Are they going to be compensated for their efforts once VA starts making cashola off this?

    just curious..

    • The way I read the letter - which was very brief - was that it's some new extensions which will be proprietary not SourceForge itself.

      Morally I think it would be nice if the developers all received some part of the cash - if there ever is any. Mind you RedHat don't pay non-RedHat employees out the money they make out of GPL'd software do they?
      • The authors hold the copyright. It is released under GPL. If you violate the GPL and use the code of the authors, you are either acting under their special permission (likely paid for) or you are breaking copyright law.

        If VA is writing extensions to Source forge, I can't comment... it's a complex issue. Are they or are they not derrivative works?

        • If VA is writing extensions to Source forge, I can't comment... it's a complex issue. Are they or are they not derrivative works?

          First of all VA may have asked the authors to sign over copyright to them - as the FSF does. It's believed by many that this makes it easier to defend against GPL violations. I don't know whether this has happened or not - but I'd guess not.

          Simply charging for distribution of GPL'd software - is not a violation of the GPL. The only possibly violation would be whether the 'extensions' together with the GPL'd stuff constitute a 'derived work' or merely an 'aggregate work'. That's what I meant about 'clean' interfaces.

          My guess would be that we're talking about stand-alone programs which can be called by SourceForge with specific command line flags, input files etc. The fact that they are really designed to be used with SourceForge doesn't matter so long as they can be seen to be distinct programs.

          From what someone else said - it looks as though these extensions are actually doing is talking to Oracle databases. So they have to make these extensions separate and proprietary in order to be able to interface with Oracle and not violate the GPL on the core software. It's a compromise based on the fact that their large customers want Oracle integration.

          • From what I understand, when we decided to take this approach to the sfotware, we looked at the parts where we would end up taking bits proprietary , contacted the authros and licenced from them thier software.

            As the copyright holder of these bits of SF , we can create derivateive works, dual licence, whatever to our haearts contents. the copyright holder of a gpl work (in it;'s entirety) can dual licneces it under proprietary licences, or whatever.

            Chris DiBona

            (speaking for VA)

    • are all these people employed by VA? Are they going to be compensated for their efforts once VA starts making cashola off this?

      As long as VA Linux isn't violating the license, it doesn't really matter. Now, of course, the question is: Are they violating the license on the original code? Is this a closed-source Sourceforge in name only and not actually use any of the GPLed code?

      Based on the article, only the enhancements will be closed source, so I don't see a problem with this.

      • It does not matter.

        They can take sourceforge and sell it right now in its entire form as a closed source product if they want.

        So many people have missed this.

        Think of Quake I and idsoftware. They released it under the GPL and will sell it too you proprietary for your own purposes IF you want to pay.

        Sourceforge is doing the same thing.. They can sell the "GPL'd" version under any lic they want, they own the software.

        • They can sell the "GPL'd" version under any lic they want, they own the software.

          Yes they can - if they really do own the software

          The big question is - do they? Have the non-VA contributors signed over their copyright? And - something I've always wondered - how much of a contribution do you have to make to allow you to block this? If I make a 1 line change and submit a patch (C) Me - do they now have to consult me on licensing decisions? or is my work not considered significant enough to warrant that level of protection?

          • Under copyright law, it is my understanding that you own your creative works and all derivatives. That means, if you made a change in their system, you haven't created a work. VA automatically owns the copyright on your derivative work.

            If you were to write a module that incorporated the code, the custom code would be yours, but it would fall under the GPL as a derivative as well.

            However, patches/tweaks aren't creative works and therefore shouldn't grant the author any protection.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I guess people who submitted patches signed over copyright to VA. I doubt that VA employees own copyright to their work-for-hire, almost no employed programmers do. Makes me glad I didn't waste my time contributing to the source so that VA could cash in by selling me out.
  • by dodson ( 248550 ) on Friday August 24, 2001 @08:23AM (#2212744)
    There is nothing wrong with selling value added extensions, as long as they aren't violating the lisence on the original body of code.

    The idea has always been pay for people not software.

    Custom modifications and services are the only way Open Source will survive.

    Free as in Freedom not Beer. Get it.
    • There is nothing wrong with selling value added extensions, as long as they aren't violating the lisence on the original body of code.

      Of course, if you own the copyright on that code, then you are free to relicence it any way you see fit.

      You can't change the terms of the licence by which I acquired my copy, but you can make it available from you exclusively under its new terms.

      Of course, if the original licence was GPL-like, then you can't stop me from redistributing my version (although you are free to ask me to stop, you can't force me to)


      • You are -ABSOLUTELY- correct. There were some instances of code that was submitted in some of the glue code that is ope nsource. I nthose cases we contacted those authors and licenced thier code so that we could do this legitimately.

        Chris DiBona

        (Speaking for VA)

    • by jeroenb ( 125404 ) on Friday August 24, 2001 @09:28AM (#2212952) Homepage
      It's not about whether or not you can sell GPL'ed software for money or not. Ofcourse you can, nothing wrong with that.

      The only thing everyone seems to miss is that lots of people especially here on Slashdot keep claiming that the GPL will be the license of the future. That businesses will use it and everything will eventually become GPL. After all, information wants to be free, right?

      Now there is this company that has been saying for years that they support Linux and the concepts behind the GPL all the way. Now however, they are trying to find a way for their company to actually make money and the only thing they can come up with is to make proprietary extensions. That's a bit too ironic isn't it? How can you expect a company (meaning: wanting to make money) like Microsoft ever to see the merits of the GPL when a supposed supporter of the GPL turns to the Microsoft model (proprietary software) to make money? That's just ridiculous.

      So no, this is not violating any license or law, it's just a slap in the face of all those people who are trying to convince the world that the GPL is a viable license even for businesses.
      • I don't think that is the case. They are proposing making custom modifications for specific client needs. As long as these modifications are for internal use and not for redistribution by the customer, there is not slap in the face to the GPL.

        I don't think they are making modifications for say a company that sells a shrink rapped source/project management system. Who will then bundle and resell the product. They are making modifications for a customer who needs X in their own source/project management system to execute their business.

        There is no conflict in such a situation.
        • Really, read it again. Especially the part where I agree that there is no conflict!

          It's just an insult to the community that a company that has claimed for years to agree with the idea that information wants to be free suddenly decides that some information for their customers doesn't want to be free.

          So maybe now we discover, that they never got it at all.
          • I understand that you were not saying there is a conflict with the GPL.

            I just don't see the slap in the face. The GPL built a robust code base that will be adequate for 95% of the people that use the software.

            We don't know what the nature of these custom modifications are. They may be something so specific that they would not have generated enough interest to be included in the main body of work.

            They may also be interfaces to proprietary systems (like SAP) that couldn't be developed without a change in the license.

            Now if the modifications turn out to be something that the general user base could have used and they end up being kept proprietary, then it will be a loss.

            I think we have to see how some of these mixed mode projects pan out before we will know for sure. But if companies don't try and discover some profitable synergy between GPL software and other lisences, then we may see a plunge in the availability of new software under such a lisence.

            I am going to reserve judgement and see how they handle this situation.

            Have a nice day.
  • I hope it works out for VA. If they can make money with this, and still supply the services that they are now, *great*!
    I would much, much rather see this then VA going down the tubes becouse of lack of funds. They've done so much for the comunuity.
  • What good is it? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MSBob ( 307239 ) on Friday August 24, 2001 @08:29AM (#2212763)
    I can't see why a company may want to deploy sourceforge on site. Maybe I never worked for a big enough company but unless you have hundreds of projects I can't really see why one might one to have sourceforge in the office. Even when I worked for my biggest ever employer they had some sixteen distinct projects and that was a company with well over a thousand employees. Where's the selling point?
    • Re:What good is it? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Jorrit ( 19549 ) on Friday August 24, 2001 @08:49AM (#2212833) Homepage
      I think that a company will soon have a number of projects. Even if you only have three projects (which really isn't much for any company) then it is still nice to have a centralized point to control all this. SourceForge gives you cvs, bug tracker, support tracker, other trackers, message forums, mailing lists, ...

      I can certainly imagine this to be very useful for even smaller companies.

    • Re:What good is it? (Score:4, Informative)

      by GordonMcGregor ( 27949 ) on Friday August 24, 2001 @08:52AM (#2212840)
      My employer uses sourceforge internally.

      We have approx 8000 designers/ software engineers/ admin and so can quite happily share code and jointly develop projects.

    • Re:What good is it? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Jorrit ( 19549 )
      Additionally I'd like to add that the value of SourceForge lies not in the number of projects that are hosted on it. Even with only one project in it something like SourceForge would be useful. At my work I only work on one projects (but there are more of course) but even so I would love to use SourceForge to keep track of bugs, supports requests, ...

      So to summarize. Even if you only use the SourceForge code for one project it is still useful.

    • by dingbat_hp ( 98241 )

      I can't see why a company may want to deploy sourceforge on site

      There's no way I could get my PHB to use an open off-site SourceForge. The corporate mentality just can't cope with it - they really would rather we shared nothing and we lost half our changes.

      After all, putting any of our product source into SourceForge means that it instantly becomes contaminated with the Cancer of Open Source (tm), and we would have to offer RMS a seat on the board. It must be true, he read it in Pointy Haired Weekly.

      If I have a copy of SourceForge that I can spend proper money on, and I then get to label a box in the machine room as "Our SourceForge machine", then I might get to use it.

      Oh, and VA Linux have to get some revenue from somewhere!

    • I can't see why a company may want to deploy sourceforge on site.

      I can't imagine any company wanting to use Sourceforge off-site. Think of the risks:

      • If anything happens to VA Linux or, you could be screwed.
      • Your company's IP is stored on a third-party server that's shared with thousands of other programmers outside the company. Who says it's secure? Sure it uses ssh, but that's only securing the connection. Who says it's still secure on the servers?
      • Keeping it all in-house means you have control over it. Don't want to upgrade? You don't have to!
      • You're not dependent on the Internet for access to your own source code. What if your ISP's router dies? Besides, the internal network is much faster.
      • by Jorrit ( 19549 )
        As far as I know you can install the off-site SourceForge on an internal network too. So it can be behind a firewall if you want. That would solve all the security and speed issues. What SourceForge is selling is not an internet site but code to support something similar to SourceForge internally in your local intranet.

    • Re:What good is it? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Surak ( 18578 )
      I can't see why a company may want to deploy sourceforge on site. Maybe I never worked for a big enough company but unless you have hundreds of projects I can't really see why one might one to have sourceforge in the office. Even when I worked for my biggest ever employer they had some sixteen distinct projects and that was a company with well over a thousand employees. Where's the selling point?

      Oh this is *easy*. General Motors, my employer, whom does not necessarily share my opinions and for whom I do not speak, has *easily* 50-100 different software projects going on right now.

      None of of these are centralized efforts. They are scattered across different business units, even scattered across the globe. If they had could have one, centralized place to manage all of that source code, where developers could have access (or not have access, depending on setup) to different developers code, a lot of duplicated effort in the way of configuration management, and even in the realm of libraries and routine and such, could be eliminated.

      In fact, I'm thinking of writing up a proposal right now and sending it in to appropriate management. :)

    • unless you have hundreds of projects

      Bingo. Hell, I worked for a small web shoppe with a dev staff of less than a dozen, and there were more projects than people, with collaboration that was easy enough by walking over to another's office, but no good system for tracking bugs or feature requests. Most common problem wasn't remembering the outstanding bugs or requests, it was "when did you ask about that?"

      Then there was the big fortune 50 company, which had dozens of ad hoc projects in my department alone, many of which would lose the code whenever they restructured the dev servers in upgrades and new projects and the project wasn't active at the moment. Off the top of my head, I could have used the Java tty screenscraper code that was sitting around somewhere in a related project, then just up and disappeared later. I could sure as hell have used a project browser then.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 24, 2001 @08:30AM (#2212768)
    In a recent meeting with some VA Reps, they mentioned that a closed-source package of Oracle hooks would be coming out in the future, at the request of many of their large customers.

    This was, of course, an answer to our question, "when will you support Oracle?" I felt funny asking that question, but OSS be damned. Oracle has it over any other database when it comes to performance and management.
    • I thought as much (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RatFink100 ( 189508 )
      this was the only plausible reason for making proprietary extensions - to provide 'embedded' interfaces proprietary software. Of course you have to make the interfaces between these extensions and the GPL SourceForge 'clean' in licensing terms.

      Otherwise - if VA had really been converted to proprietariness - they'd have just re-licensed the whole thing.
  • Simple fact, if VA Linux goes under they'll be taking SourceForge, Slashdot, and a bunch of others down with them. Its not like they're closing the source completly after having had people work on it openly, it another product (presumeably the GPL stuff (which remains GPL) with closed source extensions). So I say let them sell, coz the profits from such go toward keeping the pretty cool free stuff around.
    • Thanks! A lot of peopel forget that even if we do have 80m in the bank, we have to be at a point where we are -making- money to survive. The bandwidth bill each month his something over 150k now, and that's -just- bandwidth (for all the sites).

      We don't want to go down the road of saying "hmm, wll, if we shut of mirrors on SF then we can cut that down to say 80k, or, hey, if we let the response times on go to crap (for bug reports , service requests and the like), we can cut down personell costs. But we don't want to do that. I don't want to ramble on, but I think that for these sites, (SF, FM, /. etc) to survive, VA has to be healthy. And right now -noone- is doing what fm and sf is doing by any measure. And I think peopel value it.

      That said, I am not under the illusion that project leaders could not handle thier own hosting, the way they did before, but I think the world is better off with sf , fm and /. around. And these steps VA is taking is about making VA the money it needs to continue.


      Chris DiBona

      (Speaking for VA)

  • by q-soe ( 466472 ) on Friday August 24, 2001 @08:32AM (#2212778) Homepage
    Got modded down - well i thought you could leave it alone but then again who knows - it might have been offtopic there but i have been seeing the misinformed stories all day

    Reposted in CORRECT FORUM

    the end of the world as we know it

    Actually the story says that VA linux is going to sell some investigate ways to make some money from their software development and thus build some applications that move in new ways - this is perfectly reasonable as their employees have mouths to feed.

    I quote: (lifted without permission but maybe this wil stop the register being slashdotted)

    SourceForge is the new ERP - VA Linux
    By Andrew Orlowski in San Francisco
    Posted: 24/08/2001 at 07:49 GMT

    Barely six weeks ago VA Linux Systems was an open source hardware vendor. Now, the company is undertaking a Napoleonic retreat from the hardware business and it's doing the unthinkable: adding proprietary subscription software to its open source software flagship SourceForge.

    VA swallowed charges of around $230m in the last quarter - $160 million coming under the category of "impairment of goodwill and intangible assets", and almost $70 million as a one-time charge - contributing to a net loss for the quarter of $290 million as it liquidated its PC manufacturing and sales businesses.

    Costs will continue to affect the bottom line for two further quarters, said VA. Its Japanese subsidiary will continue to sell hardware, the company said, but that amounts to chump change.

    The new software-only VA expects to make an operating lost of $10 to $13 million on revenue of $3 to $4 million in the forthcoming quarter. With a cash pile of $83 million, that gives the company as little as six months to ramp revenue, or else seek new investment. VA said its burn rate will continue to decline, suggesting that more layoffs are to be expected.

    But CEO Larry Augustin is bullish. He says there was no competition for the distributed code management system SourceForge. Current development processes and tools haven't kept pace with geographically dispersed or ad hoc teams, according Augustin, who predicts that the impact of SourceForge could be as great as ERP or CRM.

    Typically VA deals with in-house developers using a range of tools (it cites Borland, Rational and Microsoft as well as GNU tools). The company emphasises that seeks to complement rather than supplant existing tools.

    VA is gunning for $600 revenue per seat per year - it claims that buyers typically see a return on investment within six months.

    Augustin talks of adding "proprietary software features and functionality" to the subscription version SourceForge. That VA is looks at the software-hoarding model to save the business is an irony a few will savour, but we guess that by now badly singed VA investors will simply be hoping it flies. ®


    They are not 'going closed source' they have had a subscription service for some time - the code is well developed and they are looking at new areas like ERP - they have a right to do it and if they dont they may very well be down the tubes.

    From someone who works in MIS and who's company has just spent AU$20 Million on SAP let me tell you that this is a field where some competitors would be good - there arent many new products that ar worth buying and three companies have it tied up - SAP, Peoplesoft and JD Edwards.

    And no - no company in their right mind would ever buy a free GPL erp system - these systems are the heart and sould of a business when you implement them - they do all payroll and accounting functions etc and no one would trust a product without a company with cash and controlled development backing it up.

    I have been accused in the past of defending MS - so it might seem strange for the people who can't see past the MS sucks argument to defend an open source company but im not that narrow minded.

    VA Linux have not sold out the GPL - they are simply running their free software projects and at the same time trying to make enough money to survive and build a new product in the meantime.

    And you can only attack them ?

    Christ have you stopped to think what this means if these guys get this right - ERP's are run on Windows or Unix Platforms - what this might give the world is a stable lower cost ERP alternative that is built on linux.

    The problem with free sourcing applications like this is that VA would be expected by their clients to do all the development work but by the brethern to give everyone that work for free and thus give competitors the chance to profit off their hard work when they adapt the code and havent got to pay for the development.

    Open source does not have to mean free IMHO - devlopment of corporate systems costs money - but maybe VA can start the ball rolling and we might win a few of those corporate file and app servers and some corporate desktops.

    So please no more meaningless VA have sold out posts - its boring and innacurate and they are only being posted here because they own Slashdot and your trying to be smart (and failing)

    • Ummm, SourceForge is not an ERP system, won't become one, and the article you quoted doesn't claim that it will. "The impact of SourceForge could be as great as ERP or CRM" doesn't mean that SourceForge is an ERP system, it means that VA Linux believes it might become as important as an ERP system.

      And no - no company in their right mind would ever buy a free GPL erp system - these systems are the heart and sould of a business when you implement them - they do all payroll and accounting functions etc and no one would trust a product without a company with cash and controlled development backing it up.

      Maybe they would not download the source and compile it themselves, but why would they not use a GPLed ERP system? Do you seriously think SAP's market share would drop to zero if they decide to free SAP R/3? Also, if that were true, then why do people run SAP or their databases on Linux systems? If you "don't trust a free ERP system", then why would you install it on top of Free Software?

      I'd agree if you say there is no free enterprise level ERP system available yet, but this doesn't mean there won't be one in the future.

    • When people say "SourceForge is the new ERP" they mean SourceForge is LIKE ERP. They mean it in the sense that "Grey is the new Black." Sourceforge will play the role in software development that ERP pays in purchasing/accounting/whatever. VA Linux is not literally going to go into ERP.
  • I'm curious what licence the'll use...

    I think the easiest way would be to change the licence of sourceforge code to something less GPL, offer the free (beer) version (with source) to non-profit projects, and just licence the use of their code to profit orgs...
  • by Eagle7 ( 111475 ) on Friday August 24, 2001 @08:41AM (#2212807) Homepage
    Some reps from VA came by and gave a presentation at my company regarding this product about 2 months ago.

    Its actually pretty neat - they'll set up your own internal sourceforge on servers in your organization. And while they are doing it, they'll customize it so that the backend works with all of your already establised CM and problem tracking tools.

    The idea is that even if your company makes closed software, you can benefit from a structured way to share code within the company. They can even close off portions with restricted access, so that classified projects (I work for a defense contractor) will only be available to the developers working on it.

    The product the and the services they bring with it are really amazing... if I was in charge of such things here, I'd switch over ASAP. I really hope they make a go with this.
    • You don't plonk money down for support from a company that isn't going to be there in eighteen months, and in VA's case, this isn't even up for debate anymore - Morningstar has put them down for five more quarters until they are gonzo.
      • > this isn't even up for debate anymore

        Thank you, Jean Dixon. Of course it's up for debate! 18 months is a long time, and a lot of things could happen in that time. Any future prediction on this level is an educated guess, at best.
  • by chrysalis ( 50680 ) on Friday August 24, 2001 @08:43AM (#2212814) Homepage
    Sourceforge is a marvellous thing for developpers and it helps a lot the free software community.
    However, Sourceforge is very buggy. Sometimes the CVS server refuses authentication. Sometimes, uploading new releases is impossible. Sometimes, I have to authenticate dozens of time. And it doesn't like Opera.
    Maybe VA should fix Sourceforge before selling it.
    • If you are refering to yesterdays incident to refusing authentication then I'd like to add that this was a scheduled downtime of the CVS services. This downtime was announced on the Sourceforge Site Status page.

      Otherwise I have almost never problems with SourceForge and especially not with cvs. I use it daily (and more than once every day) for several of my projects without failure.

  • by aldjiblah ( 312163 ) on Friday August 24, 2001 @08:44AM (#2212819)
    Is VA trying to draw its own logo [] with its stock graph []?

    The V is getting a little to big, time to move on people.

    It does promise good times ahead though!

  • by SweenyTod ( 47651 ) <sweenytod.sweenytod@com> on Friday August 24, 2001 @08:48AM (#2212828) Homepage
    In my opinion, this is a good sign for companies in the future. I mean, we have a company demonstratably commited to open source able to or trying to make some money from their open source. I hope they succeed.

    To me it shows that they've understood how to make a living out of the free software fad, and are showing others how to make dollars out of the service industry. Good for them, and I truely thank them for what they've given me in the past, in the form of and sites like /.
    • In my opinion, this is a good sign for companies in the future. I mean, we have a company demonstrably committed to open source [...]

      They're not demonstrably committed to open source, they're going to try their hand at a closed source, proprietary route in an effort to actually make money. That's what this article's about.

      [...] able to or trying to make some money from their open source

      They definitely haven't been able to, they've lost tons of money so far, including $290 million over the past 90 days. And how is "trying to make some money" a good sign for companies in the future? Back in 1999, and and all the rest tried to make money, too. The only reason future companies will see these as good signs is if they're bankruptcy lawyers, repo men, or run a website at

      To me it shows that they've understood how to make a living out of the free software fad

      But they're still losing tons of money, and they plan to soon have only around 3 or 4 million dollars of revenue (not profits, just revenue) per quarter, most of that coming from ads on their websites. (Which I really don't understand, since most OSDN/Slashdot ads are for other OSDN sites. Surely they can't be relying on such a simple scam to fool investors.). That's not making money, and if they actually stay in business it'll be a miracle. I understand that you like them, but you've gotta be realistic.

  • now maybe some PHBs will take notice instead of being afraid of using hippie commie software to manage their projects...I sure know it would help around here...
  • by phoey ( 182032 )
    People don't realize that there is a FEE in
    FREE. VA Linux is only using their right
    to sell Open Source/Free software (GLP'd)
    with proprietary extensions.
  • Polish up your resumes guys,and start recruituing volunteers to help you run /..

    From the article:

    And VA needs a proven business model. It reported revenue of $16 million Thursday; most of its loss was from its abandonment of Linux computer sales in favor of software and services. The company said $267 million of the loss was from non-cash charges for goodwill, intangible assets and restructuring charges because of VA's departure from the computer business
  • Uh I think it's called version management or change control or version libs or problem-queues or something like that. At any rate since the days of Panvalet or CA-something or PVCS we've had this function. All this is a more open ended spin on it. Open ended as in less process bound not open as in (Ta-Da) OPEN. This is great VA gets to sell a product and make some money doing it. What's the big forking deal?
  • Interesting... So what about any Source Forge code wirtten by external developers who did so under the terms of the GPL? Unless they signed over the copyright to VA, then VA can't do this (unless those developers agree to it and license them the code under a different license).

    Actually though I suspect this isn't an issue which leads me to a significant realization about the poor implemtnations of open source based businesses we've seen come out of the recent hype. What are the advantages of open source?

    1) Many eyes to find many bugs
    2) Large collaborative effort distributing cost of development

    Now, if Source Forge was all code written by people in-house, why is it open source? There is absolutely no business justification for this within their business model. I mean don't get me wrong, I'm glad they do it, hopefully out of a sense of community, not just a PR thing. But the result is that they are getting ALL of the drawbacks of open source and none of the benefits. No wonder VA is having financial problems and no wonder they have to make a proprietary version.
    People keep thinking that open source can't make money. That's only because we keep seeing a lot of companies make the same serious mistake, trying to develop an open source project in a proprietary development style then just opening the code.

    If you look at successful open source projects and companies who are making money off it, their approach is entirely different. RedHat actually gets it! They subsidize some of the cost of developing linux, but not all of it by any stretch. They release new products by taking existing open source projects, branding them, and then throwing some developers at it (see also RedHat's new Postgres database).

    Hopefully VA and the rest will soon learn that you can't set out and build an open source project overnight. It is something that has to grow organically by a bunch of geeks recognizing a common usefulness of a piece of software. If you try to force it, fronting proprietary development costs, and then just saying it's open source, your company will fail because it is not a sustainable model. Doesn't mean anything is wrong with open source, just means these people aren't doing it right.
    • I commented on the copyright issues in an earlier post, but basically there were some patches accepted outside of VA. From what I understand we aquired (or licences) the code from those authros so that we could do this right.

      As to why we would have had a GPL version still or in the first place, well, that kind of is who we are. I actually have alot of respect for how things have turned out for Redhat, but doing Open Source software -Right- as you say has to include the mixture of OSS and proprietary otherwise OSS will always be in a ghetto of incompatiblity. If we take the tack that to interoperate with proprietary software is bad and should not be done, then there would be no Samba or other projects that reach out to otther os's and file systems.

      I'm sort of off what you were talking about, but back to what you were talkign about. VA has worked on and release a ton of code, and it is out of a sense of the larger community that we do this.

      And we are very cognizant ofthe time it takes to produce and open soruce project, I assure you. For instance, we started hosting projects as far back as 1995, sf as a proejct started to relieve the pressure of adminning all the projects that accumulated on va hosted machines through the end of the last decade. So we know the time commitment thing, really :-)

      Chris DiBona

  • Good for them (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HerrGlock ( 141750 ) on Friday August 24, 2001 @10:11AM (#2213084) Homepage
    That is one of the things I really agreed with as a business model that gives back.

    Make the most current version closed source and binary only, then each time a new version is out, put the last one into an open source license.

    Everybody wins. Sorta like how patents were SUPPOSED to work.

  • Why would nobody think of charging subscription fees to read, post and search technical mailing lists and its archives to generate income ?

    I never understoodd why, if the source code is open, the technical support to explain how an open source code software package works to other users and developers, is a thing you can get for free. This is a free like in free beer thingy and it is not necessary to give that kind of technical support away for absolutely nothing.

    A developer who donates code to an open source project might be willing to pay a little to the mailing list to show support for open source code in general (even though he already donates his work and his time).

    All the others, the ones who just profit from the knowledge of the (in general) few real developers of the package, who just use the mailing list to learn and get advice for free, should pay a subscription to fee to support the overall chance for open source software to make money for the developers and the companies who hire those developers, IMHO. May be it is time that the community helps itself to generate income for open source projects in paying "a little bit" to the most helpful and used item by all users and developers, the technical support mailing lists of any open source project ?

    I want to stay source code opened up as much as possible. I would pay a subscription fee to a technical mailing list, where developers help to explain their software's features, detect and fix their software's bugs and open up in which direction the software is going to be developed.

    I think cvs and bugzilla is the best and most beneficial invention of all things I have seen so far, for all, users and developers alike. I would not hesitate to pay a subscription fee to be able to read, post and search a mailing list's archives.

    Of course it has to be a low subscription fee that is affordable.

    Is that not a way to generate income for a company like VALinux too ? Or would it be just peanuts ?
  • by the_2nd_coming ( 444906 ) on Friday August 24, 2001 @10:27AM (#2213171) Homepage
    as long as the base is free and open (I.E. the main program and all the protocols and file formats) then the programs built on top of that base can be either open or closed, it does not matter. what is the one reason that MS is hated?
    because they place a barrior to entry to compete with their products. if windows, the protocols, and the file formats were all open and under the GPL and they sold word and office as a proprietary tool, I would have no issues with them, however, the barrior to entry is huge because they don't let anyone see anything.
    that is why Linux is so great, everything you need to compete equaly is available free and open. the sam priciple applies to sourceforge, the base system is open and free, this allows anyone to compete in this arena, VA is adding extentions to the system that are proprietary, to add value that is exclusive to VA, another company can come along and take the base code and add proprietay extentions on it to make its sourceforge have features that are exclusive to that companies product. nothing wrong with that, just let the market sort them out.
  • SourceForge doesnt contain any code borrowed from other GPLed programs, does it? If it does, how are they going to get away with this? Am I the only one who sees the irony in a Linux company violating the GPL?
    • Re:SourceForge (Score:3, Informative)

      by scrytch ( 9198 )
      SourceForge doesn't contain any code borrowed from other GPLed programs, does it? If it does, how are they going to get away with this? Am I the only one who sees the irony in a "Linux" company violating the GPL?

      sf itself is collection of PHP scripts which interface to various tools -- most of which are not GPL'd -- including PostgreSQL, CVS, ssh, Amanda, etc. There's a page listing the various tools they use. sourceforge as a broader concept is a service, kind of like for your software.

      sf is almost certainly not closing the source of the version they sell to companies, though they probably do restrict its distribution. What they are doing is charging for custom modification, such as working with existing project and QA systems. These versions are not distributed to the public, and thus are considered "internal". And it's perfectly within the spirit of the GPL, because there is an otherwise very functional core that is actively developed under the GPL, and not under the complete control of VA. This is that support model that Open Source folks have been going on about ... or did you think support was just about staffing a helpdesk?
  • by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Friday August 24, 2001 @10:32AM (#2213187)
    The target market for proprietary SourceForge extensions is tiny. The market for SourceForge at all, even the free version, above and beyond plain CVS is small as it stands.

    While its admirable for a company to strike out for new business, its probably time for the VA execs to fess up to the reality of it - the negative momentum on earnings is too much for the stock to bear. Once LNUX inevitably goes under $1, the dilution of the stock will bring the market cap to ridiculously low levels. Once the market cap gets under $80 million, the assets of the company are valued more than its valuation as a publically traded company (I believe VA has $83 million cash and securities).

    Why not just sell off the assets and simply redistribute the funds to shareholders? Really, this isn't a slag on the company or its employees - the math is simply against them. Morningstar has given them five more quarters and then they predict it is all over for them.

    I can't figure out why companies insist on spending every last dollar when its obvious that it isn't going to happen.

    • The market for SourceForge at all, even the free version, above and beyond plain CVS is small as it stands.

      The free version does much more than you hint at. Many of these things are essential for collaboration in large-scale projects:

      Code Management
      • Software Archiving
      • Bug Tracking
      • Patch Management
      • Secure Source Control (CVS)
      • Variable Project Access Control
      Developer Management
      • Developer Access Control
      • Task Management
      • Support Management
      • Team Activity / Statistics
      • Automated E-mail Updates
      Knowledge Management
      • Documentation Management
      • Discussion Forums
      • Mailing List Management
      • Support Archives
      • Indexing and Searching

      And you think that the market for such an all-encompasing collaboration tool is small!?!? Sure some of it is marketdroid speak, but having a web front-end to these disparate tools is well worth the price of $0.00.

      Lots of folks here seem to believe that the only revenue stream is from "propriatery extensions". I believe this is not exactly true. I think SF wants to make money their real money in the services department, judging from the list on their site:

      • Support
      • Assessment
      • Installation
      • Integration
      • Administration
      • Training
      • Customization
      • Internal Marketing
      • Delivery

      My bet is that the "enterprise edition" will be the same as the free version except a) it will work with Oracle, and b) they will offer some or all of the services listed above as part of the offer. Just my little guess.

  • by Milican ( 58140 ) on Friday August 24, 2001 @11:14AM (#2213383) Journal
    Well I found out about sourceforge last week. The funny thing is a banner ad at slashdot tipped me off. The company I work for happens to be in the market for collaboration software. Unfortunately, I was too late to throw this one the bucket. The decision had already been made for another product.

    After talking to a sales rep from VA Linux on the phone the advantage of buying sourceforge [] is support. Which I'm sure is the same reason businesses buy RedHat. Time is money to business and I know first hand we cannot be down from a bug in software or at the mercy of newsgroups for technical support answers. What I found really interesting is VA Linux no longer sells hardware, but they do still provide support. Anyway, good move VA Linux. I really appreciate the open source collaboration sourceforge provides and I think its a great move to supply the same great tools at a price to businesses for proprietary development. Lets hope their stock prices reflect this decision.

    • Would you buy a support product from a company that won't be around in 18 months []?

      Well maybe you would, but most people wouldn't.

      And I'm sorry, there's something a bit shady about VA Linux. Look up the investor lawsuits that have been filed against them and you'll see what I mean. Now they are looking to burn about 80 million before they inevitably die. Really they should give that to their stockholders now and give up as honorably as possible.

      Its too bad they are so fucked [], because /. is a great site. I hope VA doesn't take Slashdot down with it.

  • by magi ( 91730 )
    Will they now set up a Closed Source Developer Notwork?
  • In June, during the Open Source Roundtable, I pointed out [] to VA's Larry Augustin that basing the company's business model upon GPLed software prevented it from doing two things which are necessary to survival in a market where one is competing against "generic" hardware and software. These are: (a) differentiating one's products from competitors' offerings; and (b) adding unique value that others cannot simply copy for free. Larry never responded to my posting (in fact, he dropped out of the conversation at that point when I was hoping to read a response). But maybe he listened! While the company has now exited the hardware business (a shame; it was what they were founded to do) and is still competing with itself by offering GPLed versions of its products, it is moving in the right direction. I am convinced that a BSD-like approach will work for the company: creating unique enhancements that are at first available only from them, and then -- sometime later -- giving them to an open source project once they are no longer strategic. It would be better for VA if such projects used a truly free license such as the BSD License, so that subsequent improvements made in the open source projects could be rolled back into VA's own code.

    In all of this, it pays to bear in mind that the GPL was originally created by Richard Stallman as a way of destroying companies such as Symbolics and Lisp Machines, Inc. -- two companies which tried to build specialized hardware that was differentiated by uniquely powerful software. Just like VA. By embracing the GPL, VA Linux unwittingly clasped the serpent that was designed to hurt these two companies to its own breast. By backing away from the GPL and moving toward a win-win strategy that combines the advantages of open source and commercial software, VA can embark upon a sustainable business model.

    --Brett Glass

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.