CollabNet Comes Out of the Shadows

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CollabNet has a fascinating history that goes back to 1999, when Collab.Net launched SourceXchange:

a site where companies can post proposals for programming work and solicit bids from open source coders. It is intended to form the first of a series of projects exploring new business models based on open source, and which collectively make up Collab.Net. A list of those involved reads like a roll call of the leading players in the open source industry. Employees include Frank Hecker, who played a major role in convincing Netscape to take its browser open source, and James Barry, who helped convert IBM to Apache. Alongside [co-founder Brian] Behlendorf, Tim O'Reilly and Marc Andreessen are board members, and investors in a $35 million round of funding closed in June 2000 included Dell, HP, Intel, Novell, Oracle, Sun and TurboLinux.

That's what I wrote in Rebel Code in 2000, and as it makes clear, Collab.Net was taking an innovative approach to building a business on open source as a process, rather than simply supporting open source products.

It has to be said that not all the hopes and expectations that people (and investors) had for Collab.Net were realised, and the company rather sank out of view for a few years. After closing down SourceXchange in 2001, it concentrated on expanding its Subversion version control system into a line of related products, including distributed application lifecycle management and virtual development infrastructure, aimed increasingly at the enterprise market.

According to Wikipedia:

Subversion is well-known in the open source community and is used on many open source projects, including Apache Software Foundation, KDE, GNOME, Free Pascal, FreeBSD, GCC, Python, Django, Ruby, Mono, SourceForge.net, ExtJS and Tigris.org. Google Code also provides Subversion hosting for their open source projects.

That's an impressive roster, matched by an increasingly solid list of corporate users: more than 700 organisations, including Applied Biosystems, Capgemini, Deutsche Bank, Oracle, Reuters, and the U.S. Department of Defense, according to the company. Some figures announced today for openCollabNet, the end-user and developer community for the CollabNet platform and Subversion, show what that means in terms of coders:

CollabNet, the leader in distributed application lifecycle management (ALM) solutions, announced today that more than 200,000 members have now joined openCollabNet, the end-user and developer community for the CollabNet platform and Subversion. More than 20,000 new members join the rapidly growing community each month, and the community’s website delivers more than five million page views per month. CollabNet also announced today that more than 20 products that integrate third-party software, such as Eclipse, NetBeans, and Visual Studio, with the CollabNet platform and Subversion are now available on collabXchange, an online integration marketplace accessible to openCollabNet members. Free openCollabNet memberships are available at www.collab.net/community, and members can download integration products at www.collab.net/collabXchange.

These are serious numbers, and it suggests that while we weren't looking CollabNet has quietly turned into a front-rank open source company, successfully straddling the enterprise and community worlds. It may not be in quite the business its founders thought it would be when it was launched ten years ago, but that's more a testament to the flexibility of the management team prepared to adapt than a weakness in itself. Although CollabNet doesn't release financial statements (it's privately held), it looks to be in a good position both to weather the current financial problems, and to grow when/if we ever come out of them.

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