Self-hosting Launchpad? Dream on…

Canonical recently announced that it open sourced Launchpad, its web-based project management and collaboration platform. This news came out while we were conducting an evaluation of Open Source collaboration platforms for a client. The client’s intent is to host a collaboration platform for its developer community. The evaluation was done based on feature sets, and was drafted before Launchpad’s source code was released. Launchpad turned out to be the slightly better choice and once it became available, we tried to install it.

Unfortunately, we began to realize that Launchpad isn’t designed or intended to be used as a self-hosting site due to the following reasons:

  • There are no release packages. You checkout the development code via a Bazaar repository and then compile it. Depending on the state of the last checkin, the code might even not compile sometimes. It took us two tries to get the installation done.
  • The working installation is meant for local use only and it’s not trivial to get it running under a normal, fully-qualified domain name.
  • Even if we had figured out how to make Launchpad serve properly via HTTP to the general public, we would have faced a maintenance nightmare by doing QA and release management ourselves.
  • Let’s not forget the fact that Canonical requires you to not use the trademark “Launchpad” and to replace all the graphic icons.

It is not without irony that an Open Source marketing agency was blinded by the fuzzy PR parlance of Canonical. Luckily, the source code always tells the truth.

After we had discussed the issue on the launchpad-dev mailing list, Canonical today added the following line to the Launchpad Development Wiki, which makes it pretty clear:

Note that our focus is on getting Launchpad to build easily so more people can participate in Launchpad development. Running a stable production instance would be ”much” harder than running a single-developer test instance, and we don’t recommend it. Unlike many open source projects, we’re not seeking to maximize the number of installations; our goal is to improve the instance we’re already running at Launchpad.net.

Obviously, Canonical really doesn’t have to worry that by open sourcing Launchpad, they licensed away their business model.

Our client has opted for FusionForge. It’s a great alternative, works out of the box, is easy to install and includes all the basic features. It runs on top of Ubuntu 9.04, an Open Source operating system backed by Canonical, which, ironically, has some proper release management 🙂