With the ClearOS Enterprise Alpha (and shortly thereafter, Beta) image nearing release, there are bound to be questions on one of the major features making its debut in the upcoming release - ClearCenter's Marketplace.
Simply put, ClearCenter's Marketplace is an online store featuring apps and services (both free and paid) for ClearOS Enterprise. For those using or familiar with Android smartphones, there is a good analogy that will help clarify the direction we are taking. Let's start with the following two premises:
1. ClearOS is to Server, Network & Gateway what Android OS is to Smartphones.
2. ClearCenter's new Marketplace is to ClearOS Enterprise (the platform) what Google's Android Marketplace is to Android OS.
ClearCenter Marketplace will replace the current (5.x) Modules and Updates pages in webconfig. It contains a wrapper around yum - ClearOS Enterprise's package manager, allowing apps to be installed and removed.
The Marketplace runs as a web-service, making dynamic calls to ClearCenter's ClearSDN to fetch and display available apps for the version of ClearOS you are running. "Hooks" are available to ClearCenter's secure, online store, allowing fee or subscription based apps to be purchased in real-time by credit card, PayPal or on terms (credit approval required).
ClearCenter Marketplace provides a social feedback loop, containing an app rating system with the ability to moderate an individuals rating or comment. Comments (good or bad) modded up will organically float to the top - considered more worthy by peer-reviewed for new users to base decisions on.
Similarties to Android OS/Android Marketplace
ClearOS is a free and open-source platform, analogous to the GNU/Linux-based Android OS for smartphones (and tablets). The term platform is important, since it denotes more of a canvas to create from, rather than a finished product.
ClearCenter productises ClearOS in much the same way Google, HTC and wireless telecoms market the Android smartphone. While ClearCenter (nor any of the companies just mentioned) actual sell GPL software - although its perfectly legal to do so, just not a great business model - "productise" is less about selling software and more about a commercial entity driving business use by providing financial backing, project stability/growth, professional support and complimentary services alongside the platform software.
ClearFoundation - as the caretaker of the ClearOS code-base - will continue to evolve ClearOS and increase the size of both the community involvement (developers, translators, testers, etc.) and install base. After all, this is CF's mandate.
Those of you who visit the ClearFoundation website regularly will have already noticed the enormous addition of technical resources and documentation added in the last 6 months. The ClearFoundation team is working towards providing an equivalent experience as Android's Developer website. Queue the developers! The enormous task of converting to a framework that will be conducive to other developers coming on board is nearing completion.
With the new framework and the introduction of the Marketplace, the potential of ClearOS to become the de-facto Server, Network & Gateway platform for developers increases significantly. Community members and ISV's can contribute and/or integrate their software in the continuing evolution of ClearOS, benefiting a wide spectrum of use-cases. Free app under an OSS license? No problem. One-time fee for a convenience app that makes an admin's job easier? Yup. Subscription based service for an integrated cloud app? Up to the task.
The similarities with Android OS and Google's Android Marketplace are strong here. Free (as in beer) apps are abundant on the Android Marketplace - need a SSH client? Take your pick.
With the launch of 6.0, 95% of ClearOS apps will be free too. ClearFoundation will not (cannot) reverse any OSI-approved license for an app with 5.x 'heritage'. Need mail archiving? Download the free app from the Marketplace (no link yet, but you get the idea). Want a content filter? There's a free app in the Marketplace. Want continued updates to increase the effectiveness of the filter in a business environment? There's a paid service available in the Marketplace. Different vendors filling different roles for a platform that can be installed in a wide range of environments. Ah...a nice segway to the next topic - vendors.
When 6.0 Enterprise is officially released, there will be a handful of vendors.
ClearFoundation will be a 'vendor' of any module that was available in ClearOS Enterprise 5.x. No doubt, more apps (integrations of other quality OSS for Linux) will be introduced as time goes on and more developers come on board.
ClearCenter will continue to offer services and support (and hardware, but that's not as conducive to integration in a Marketplace) that make ClearOS Enterprise 6.x ideal for the target market - small and medium sized business, education, not-for-profit & government and the distributed enterprise.
Google (not to be confused in the whole Android/Google analogy) will be in the Marketplace by proxy through the Google Apps syncronization/integration app offered by ClearCenter.
ISV's such as Kaspersky and Zarafa will enter the Marketplace with products and services tightly integrated with ClearOS's API.
And, perhaps most importantly from a community perspective, users will also see in the near future community 'vendors' like Tim Burgess' contributions offering both free or paid apps for ClearOS.
Thousands of Apps?
Marketplaces in general have garnered a bad reputation for the quality (or lack of) of apps that make it into the Marketplace. The Android Marketplace is no different, containing tens of thousands of apps, thousands of which cause problems with the core functionality or worse, introduce malware onto the phone and networks it is connected to.
In a large percentage of deployments, ClearOS Enterprise is trusted as the gateway device to provide security for networks - both commercial and private.
ClearCenter is extremely sensitive to this dichotomy - so much so, that even using the term Marketplace was a central discussion in moving forward internally. In the end, the functionality and the familiarity users have with Marketplaces in their personal lives outweighed the stigma. However, ClearCenter will maintain an extremely stringent quality control process over any app or service entering the Marketplace. One could rightfully consider ClearCenter as the acting gatekeeper and we take this role and responsibility seriously. Consider it just another function or value-add from the ClearCenter team - further validating our commitment to the ClearOS Enterprise platform.
ClearCenter is excited to release the first version of the Marketplace for ClearOS Enterprise and invites participation from across the community to help shape its future.
With the Alpha release, developers and ISV's can finally start to look at the new framework in addition to the excellent documentation to begin creating apps and service that they would like to introduce into the Marketplace.
If anyone has any questions, feel free to use the forums or contact ClearCenter at email@example.com. We're here to help!
ClearFoundation and ClearCenter Team Member