Catalog shopping comes to open-source software

For enterprise IT, Optaros offers a place to start the search for apps

For busy IT leaders, finding detailed information, reviews and case studies on open-source applications to fit into complex IT infrastructures can be like searching for a snowflake on a summer day.

A free beta Web site unveiled yesterday by open-source consulting firm Optaros Inc. is designed to tackle that problem. The site, Enterprise Open Source Directory, is billed as a one-stop information repository on some 300 enterprise-ready open-source applications that have been evaluated by Optaros for functionality, maturity, community support systems and popularity for business use.

Because the site just getting started, the information on it isn't always detailed. But the idea, according to Marc Osofsky, vice president of marketing at Boston-based Optaros, is to provide a starting point for businesses looking to dig deeper into open-source software.

"Today, there is a big gap in the ability of companies to get information they need on open-source software," Osofsky said. "It's a bit daunting" because a Web search for such applications can turn up 140,000 results, the vast majority of which are not geared toward enterprise computing. "The challenge of open source is that it doesn't respond to RFPs" and there are no salespeople or easily available case studies for reference.

"These are early days in terms of resources for enterprise folks to help them with the search process for open-source applications," said Osofsky.

As users add their own reviews, experiences and case studies, the site will grow more useful and detailed, he said. The site can be used initially to find products, which can then be subjected to more in-depth evaluations and comparisons, he explained.

In January, Optaros created a downloadable PDF that included its first version of an enterprise-ready open-source application catalog, but the new site takes the idea further.

The Web version was created to provide more feedback and interaction so users can log in and learn from one another. The PDF version was downloaded more than 10,000 times in January, prompting the company to create an interactive Web version, Osofsky said.

Users can find a variety of application categories in the software directory, from operating systems to Web servers to security to Web services to enterprise content management and more. The directory offers descriptions and ratings for various software options. And an enterprise use tab offers a small number of case studies.

"Before the Enterprise Open Source site, people would get mired in the 140,000 [open-source choices] out there and they couldn't separate the wheat from the chaff," Osofsky said. "Here, we've done the first filtering and given them a list of useful applications" to evaluate.

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