Sun is set to compete with the likes of Google Code and Github through Project Kenai, an open-source project hosting site the vendor launched in beta form late last week.
Developers can host their projects at no charge on the site, which enables the use of the Subversion and Mercurial version-control systems and also provides issue tracking, forums and other features.
Sun's primary goal is not to battle existing project hosting sites, project engineer Nick Sieger said on the blog maintained by Tim Bray, Sun's director of Web technologies.
"You could look at it that way, and at face value that's certainly true, however it's not our goal to directly compete with those services," Sieger wrote. "Kenai is a recognition by Sun that, as the largest open source company in the world, we need to take control of our own destiny."
"We need a place to nurture and grow our open source communities that we ourselves can control; we need to demonstrate credibility in building on top of more traditional LAMP/SAMP Web stacks (not just Java EE); and we need to show viability of Sun technologies and hardware for next-generation Web applications," he added.
Following some feedback over his use of the word "control," Sieger subsequently clarified his remark: "We have no interest in exercising any sort of control over projects on the site. What I meant is that we want to go through the process of building the site to learn as we go, and to be able to respond to the needs of the communities that come to the site more quickly than can be accomplished by third-party vendors."
The Kenai site serves as a test of Sun's ability to produce "next-generation Web applications," as it is built with the popular Ruby on Rails development framework, along with "a stew of [open-source] components and Sun-flavored technology behind and underneath," according to Sieger.
Ruby on Rails' reputation for scalability has suffered due to high-profile outages at sites like Twitter.
But Sun believes Kenai's overall architecture may have licked those issues, Sieger suggested: "We hope to help ensure that other people won't have to feel the pain we went through to build on top of this stack, because now that we've got it up and running, we think this could be a great base for building highly scalable Web applications."
One observer said Sun's move is at least partly about gaining mindshare among programmers.
"While I take what Sun says at face value regarding them needing a place to manage their own projects, make no mistake: They would love to attract more developers into the Sun sphere of influence, and Kenai is part of that effort," said Jeffrey Hammond, an analyst with Forrester Research, in an e-mail Monday.