Cloudsmith service pushes 'virtual distros'

A new company is pushing 'virtual distros' to ease enterprise application development.

A new company, Cloudsmith, has created a Web-based service meant to let developers access and exchange "virtual distros," or custom configurations, of open-source software.

The service, now in beta, doesn't store any code, just information about where the various components in a given distribution are located. It also provides a utility for collecting and assembling the various pieces.

Cloudsmith's goal is to greatly speed up and ease the process of creating open-source distributions, according to the company, which is based in New York.

One early adopter is Eteration, a company in Turkey and Germany that builds Lomboz, an open-source Java application development tool. Naci Dai, Lomboz's chief scientist, said Lomboz's customers often require custom distributions tuned for their IT environments.

"Many of our users combine our software with other open technologies to build their applications; they may choose servers from the Apache foundation, or use a portal from OW2 etc.," Dai wrote in an e-mail. "Cloudsmith allowed us to capture the configuration our users prefer in the form of Virtual Distros. ... We can update them by simply updating the virtual distro.

"We are hoping that one day this approach becomes the only way of packaging and distributing our software," he added, saying that decision will depend on user feedback.

Dai praised Cloudsmith's technology but said it remains somewhat untapped. "We hope to see more examples and users and define new and better ways to share software."

Cloudsmith's business model is still evolving. Right now, the service is free. But after the beta period ends, Cloudsmith will offer a subscription model to cater to customers who wish to share with only certain other users.

The company is not aiming its marketing efforts at chief information officers. "We are a developer-focused kind of company," said CEO Mitch Sonies. "If you don't have the developers at the grassroots level you won't get anywhere."

To that end, most of the early interest in Cloudsmith is coming from Eclipse developers. "Which is great, we love that community," Sonies said. "But we will do some things in the very near term that will show we're not about any one technology."

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