Friday's public release of the source code for Sun Microsystems' StarOffice productivity suite was a bit too much of a crashing success.
By 8:45am, American Eastern time, just 45 minutes after going online, the servers used to host the long-awaited open-source code Web site, www.OpenOffice.org, were overloaded by download requests, causing a crash that wasn't fully repaired until 3pm. The number of hits to the site wasn't disclosed, but analysts and officials said the deluge of downloads demonstrates the potential popularity of the StarOffice software and open-source code development in general.
"If there's this much interest, then StarOffice has probably struck a chord with developers," said Tracy Corbo, an analyst at Hurwitz Group. "This won't blow Microsoft Office off the desktop, but there is room for alternative [productivity suites] in some places."
Sun decided to release StarOffice's source code under the GNU General Public License in July, less than a year after its August 1999 acquisition of Germany-based StarDivision Inc. for $73.5 million. Beginning with Version 6.0 of the suite, Sun said, StarOffice will be built using the sources, application programming interfaces, file formats and reference implementation available on www.OpenOffice.org.
In July, Sun also signed San Francisco-based start-up CollabNet Inc. to build and host www.OpenOffice.org as an open-source development site for StarOffice. The site is supposed to offer programmers services such as source versioning, source browsing and maintenance of developer contact lists. Developers who register on the Web site can get free access to the StarOffice source code.
Sun is trying to position StarOffice, which runs on Windows, Linux, OS/2 and Solaris operating systems, as a viable rival to Microsoft Office 2000. "It's clear what Sun's objectives are," Corbo said. "The idea is to push an alternative desktop environment to Microsoft Office." The open-source release will enable developers to make modifications to the software, she added.
Sun officials couldn't be reached for comment on the startup problems with the open-source Web site. A CollabNet spokeswoman said technicians at that company worked nonstop today to restore the site. "They're all actually kind of psyched about [the crash] because that shows there's a lot of interest" in the StarOffice code, she added.