Cloudsmith has launched a web-based service for exchanging custom configurations of open-source software, which the startup calls "virtual distros."

The service, now in beta, doesn't store any code, just information about where the components in a given distribution are located. It also provides a tool for collecting and assembling the various pieces.

Cloudsmith's goal is to ease the creation of open-source distributions, according to the company, which is based in New York.

One early adopter is Eteration, a company in Turkey and Germany that builds Lomboz, an open-source Java application development tool. Naci Dai, Lomboz's chief scientist, said Lomboz's customers often require customised distributions.

"Many of our users combine our software with other open technologies to build their applications; they may choose servers from the Apache foundation, or use a portal from OW2 etc," Dai wrote in an email. "Cloudsmith allowed us to capture the configuration our users prefer in the form of Virtual Distros. ... We can update them by simply updating the virtual distro.

"We are hoping that one day this approach becomes the only way of packaging and distributing our software," he added, saying that decision will depend on user feedback.

Dai praised Cloudsmith's technology but said it remains somewhat untapped. "We hope to see more examples and users and define new and better ways to share software."

Cloudsmith's business model is still evolving. Right now, the service is free. But after the beta period ends, Cloudsmith will offer a subscription model to cater to customers who wish to share with only certain other users.

The company is not aiming its marketing efforts at chief information officers. "We are a developer-focused kind of company," said CEO Mitch Sonies. "If you don't have the developers at the grassroots level you won't get anywhere."

To that end, most of the early interest in Cloudsmith is coming from Eclipse developers. "Which is great, we love that community," Sonies said. "But we will do some things in the very near term that will show we're not about any one technology."