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SourceForge 4.1: Not a Chip Off The Block

SourceForge, the world's largest open source software development community, has released the newest version of its Enterprise Grade software namesake from its corporate parent VA Software .

SourceForge Enterprise Edition (SFEE), which has just hit version 4.1, is built on J2EE architecture and includes a service oriented architecture with an open API and SDK .

But there's a twist to the release this time. SourceForge Enterprise 4.1 is not based on the open source software that runs sourceforge.net. Instead, a company spokesman confirmed, the 4.x generation of SFEE is a complete break from SF.net.

SourceForge is well-known in the open source community as a kind of standard for project development tracking, collaboration and deployment (in terms of CVS and project file download). It is a centralized Web-based application that enables a community, or in the case of the Enterprise Edition, a corporation to streamline and manage a distributed development process efficiently.

SourceForge.net (SF.net) currently boasts more than 81,000 projects and over 850,000 registered members. It is part of the OSDN (Open Source Development Network), which is a subsidiary of VA Software.

Because the 4.1 version of SFEE does not share a code base with SourceForge.net, said Jan Liband, director of software marketing at VA Software, SFEE contains a few goodies that the popular SourceForge.net Web site does not. They include business access controls, a global development dashboard and third party integration.

"In the real world, you have a lot of commercial SCM (software configuration management)" to deal with, Liband said. As a result, SFEE interfaces with things such as IBM's Rational software as well as with MS-Project and MS-Office. "So if a user maps out a project in MS-Project they can just go ahead and load those tasks into SFEE and actually manage the work in SourceForge Enterprise and have a real time data sync back with MS-Project," he said.

Liband said in late 2001, the company introduced SFEE 3.x, then took the 2.6 version of SF.net, which contains large amounts of PHP , and extended that by adding the access controls, doc tools, and third party integration.

"In parallel with that effort we also realized that you can't build a product that will work in an enterprise situation on PHP. You need to have something that has a fundamental different architecture that can be extended and integrated with a CRM system, Help Desk Software and things like that."

But one of the original founders of Sourceforge, Tim Purdue, questioned the effort. Purdue, who is no longer with VA Software and has since forked the last open source version of SourceForge.net 2.6 to create Gforge, called the move a huge strategic error.

"They should have kept it open and become the dominant collaboration server instead of a niche player," Purdue said. "All that being said, I understand the closed source product is nice and feature complete, if overpriced."

SourceForge Enterprise Edition 4.1 single user pricing starts at $2,725 USD.

"Why would companies pay a license for something they can have for free, and that they can freely enhance and customize?" added Christian Bayle, Gforge community member.

"I'm not really saying anything about it being hypocritical because they don't pretend to have an OSS product and SF.net is not anything like their closed proprietary product," Purdue told internetnews.com. "What I would say is it would be silly for any company to get locked into that proprietary product."

VA Software's Liband said the decision to close source SourceForge Enterprise was no knock against the open source version that powers SourceForge.net. He claims that SFEE was closed in order to make a commercial product that met customer demand.

The release decision is "an acknowledgement that the SF.net technology was designed to do exactly what it does, power a website, to connect people," Liband said. But "it wasn't designed to be integrated into a corporate enterprise, there's no knock against it. To make it a true enterprise grade product we tried to extend the PHP version as far as we could but we realized that we'd have to have a new architecture from the ground up so that it would be integratable, upgradeable and extensible."

Purdue argued that the SFEE product is a complete rewrite with a different architecture and different look and features than its open source namesake, SF.net. By that measure, he added, it isn't accurate for VA Software to claim that SFEE is proven by SF.net.

"What we've done with SourceForge 4.1 is a huge step forward for our customers," said Ali Jenab, president and CEO, VA Software, in a statement. "We have kept the best features of a very solid technical product and transformed it by making it much easier to use, integrate and extend. No matter how a company performs development activities -- in-house, outsourced, offshore, or a mixture -- or what tools they already use, SourceForge 4.1 will help them lower development costs and increase development efficiency."

Updates prior version to change the word developers to development in OSDN reference.