Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality

Here’s an interesting initiative that popped up on my radar screen lately: Project Avalanche, a quasi-open source co-op. For a $30,000 yearly subscription, corporate members can donate their in-house software (including source code) and gain access to other member companies’ donated software for free.

Update: Ed Sims points out some other alternatives in the emerging collaborative development business.

Who’s in on it
Current subscribers include Best Buy, Medtronic and Cargill. The list is still currently pretty short.

The low-down
“Why were they writing such big checks to their software companies, but getting so little in return? Why were their in-house programming staffs writing the same sorts of custom programs written at thousands of other companies? If Detroit car makers can collaborate on research, why couldn’t U.S. technology users?”


  • Increase knowledge reuse
  • Save money (20% to 40% according to their TCO studies)
  • Independence and autonomy from software vendors

If these sound a lot like benefits of open source, you’re right.

IP Ownership
“Members of the Cooperative share intellectual property (IP) and collaborate on projects that generate IP.” Apparently it’s also legally binding.

Do you have to donate software?
Not required. Companies are free to donate whatever they want, if they want. Benefits include:

  • production-harden their IP and software (free testing)
  • encourage further innovation and improvements
  • lower maintenance costs

If these sound a lot like benefits of open source, you’re right again.

What makes this “cooperative source” different from open source?
It’s an open source gated community. Innovation and collaboration will not as great as if these companies released their software under a public license, due to a much smaller set of participants.

Avalanche does claim that cooperative source has the added advantages of “oversight, shared financial risk, increased control, greater safety and security for corporations.” Is this worth $30,000? Avalanche thinks so.

One other big plus is the fact the software library is targeted toward enterprise-level apps – applications that typically are not open source projects.