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VA Linux details open source strategy

The firm opens an online repository for open-source projects, cuts a deal with an application service provider and adds a new member to its executive staff.

VA Linux today detailed plans to put some muscle behind its open-source efforts.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based firm opened an online repository for open-source projects, cut a deal with an application service provider and added a new member to its executive staff.

Today's moves follow by less than a month the company's initial public offering, when share prices soared 698 percent beyond the opening price of $30 per share.

Linux, a variant of the Unix operating system developed in 1991 by then college student Linus Torvalds, is an open-source success. Unlike commercial software, which typically is developed by companies that hold exclusive rights to the source code, open-source software is freely distributed and available, with many different developers contributing to its improvement.

One of the most publicly visible open-source projects is from Mozilla.org, which days before Christmas released a testing version of Web browser Netscape Communicator 5.

Keeping close to its roots, VA Linux set up SourceForge, a free online repository offering open-source developers storage and communications resources. During seven weeks of testing, VA Linux claims growth of about 25 percent per week, with 3,000 developers from 76 countries signing up for the service.

SourceForge is hosting, at its launch, about 700 open-source projects, including the following: VA Linux's own Cluster Manager; Topaz, a next-generation version of the Perl programming language; and the Berlin Project, a graphical system for Linux and Unix.

VA Linux is not restricting the SourceForge to Linux, with projects for BeOS, PalmOS, MacOS and Windows, among others, registered for the service.

"SourceForge represents a dramatic departure from the traditional practices of proprietary software vendors, empowering software developers and users to work together to create their own future," Larry M. Augustin, chief executive of VA Linux, said in a statement.

The site will compete with several other open-source programming sites in attracting the attention of developers.

Among the higher-profile open-source sites are Cosource, which Linux software company Applix bought in December, and Sourcexchange, which went live just a few days before that.

But unlike those other sites, SourceForge won't be a direct source of revenue, said Brian Biles, vice president of marketing at VA Linux.

"The more and better open-source [software is], the better our business is," Biles said, because VA Linux computers and services depend on open-source software. "The richer the environment is, the more interesting deployments we can create."

Though VA Linux doesn?t expect to make money off the site directly, its existence could help lure companies that are considering calling upon VA Linux professional services such as developing open-source drivers. "It's easier to close those sorts of professional services deals with a workable infrastructure for hosting already in place."

VA Linux today also announced a new customer, NetLedger, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based application service provider (ASP) for accountants.

ASPs are companies that host software applications for customers, so that customers don't have to buy and manage the software themselves. Customers typically access the applications over the Internet.

VA Linux will provide NetLedger with a Linux server farm, as it expands its services for small-business accounting. NetLedger in August introduced its first Web-based accounting applications, using the Oracle 8i database.

In addition, Robert Russo joined VA Linux today as general manager and executive vice president of worldwide field operations. Russo, who will report to Augustin, previously worked in a similar capacity at Synopsys, a supplier of electronic design automation software.