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CollabNet revamp makes offshorers happy

MS Project hits the bin

Gone are the days when CollabNet graced the hypertext pages of every online news site. Gone are the days when the company could ride founder Brian Behlendorf's image as Apache co-creator to open-source software icon status at every turn. And, yet, despite CollabNet's current low profile, the company is probably more interesting than ever.

On Monday, CollabNet did something pretty major. It renamed SourceCast - CollabNet's flagship product - to CollabNet Enterprise Edition and then released a new version - 3.0 - of the product. Total revamp. Totally new push. Big news for those who have followed CollabNet's application development software, right?


CollabNet Enterprise Edition 3.0 has generated exactly one news story, according to Google News. This is amusing if you can remember the days when CollabNet's every move garnered attention. CollabNet is still doing what it did when it launched, with investment from big names such as HP, Sun Microsystems, Dell, Intel and Oracle: helping developers track the progress of their software creation projects. But it's doing it in a much more sophisticated manner.Version 3.0 of CollabNet Enterprise Edition creates a tighter bond, if you will, between business executives and developers in overseeing software projects.

"One thing we found working with HP and others is that a surprising number of business users were working in conjunction with developers," said Bernie Mills, longtime VP of marketing at CollabNet.

It's no shocker, but CollabNet discovered that business types like to keep an eye on how their software developers are progressing with projects. This can include making sure projects are coming in on time and also that end users are being taking care of with relevant functions. The latest version of CollabNet Enterprise Edition now ships with software called the CollabNet Project Dashboard. This provides a high-level, graphical overview of all the software projects going on within a company and how well they are keeping up with deadlines.

"This lets you see the size of various projects, how many people are working on them and whether or not the projects are on track," Mills said.

Picture of CollabNet's Dashboard software

From this high-level view, users with certain permissions can burrow down into a project's finer details such as how a particular tool is coming along or how a particular developer is performing. CollabNet sees this technology as being particularly attractive to companies with lots of offshore development in progress. It sure is hard to track staffers spread out in Bangalore; San Jose, California; San Jose, Costa Rica; and Warsaw. Once you've found the cheap labor, you want to make sure it's productive, right?

We don't mean to belabor this point, but this new offshore interest is indicative of the larger changes going on at CollabNet. In the old press heavy days, executives were happy to embrace the open source love being thrown their way. Sure, Behlendorf took shots for being so vocal about wanting to make money off open source types, but, overall, CollabNet was seen as the next great thing to be spawned by developer freedom.

Now, it's talking about effective ways to manage a multinational coder force. Hippie ethos be damned!

Another new tool for keeping workers in line is the CollabNet Task Management product. This software taps into Microsoft Project and returns information on well developers are keeping up with delivering on specific functions. Users can flag bug fixes that need correcting or, for example, a new test that needs to be completed before code can be shipped.

"This way developers don't have to touch Microsoft Project," Mills said. "This is something that receives rave reviews from the developers we talk to."

And the last new software package is the CollabNet (Software Configuration Management). This is based on the open source Subversion versioning system and helps manage changes to files and directories. It's a more sophisticated follow on to previous tool CVS.

CollabNet still has an impressive customer list, although it looks like Sun accounts for the majority of its business. It's unclear what has dulled the attention around the company. Anyone have a theory?

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