Developers will soon be able to get their teeth into a network called Snakebite, which will assist them in developing open source projects and testing their software on multiple platforms.

The planned Snakebite network is intended to "provide developers of open source projects complete and unrestricted access to as many different platforms, operating systems, architectures, compilers, devices, databases, tools, and applications that they may need in order to optimally develop their software," according to the Snakebite website, which also welcomes visitors to "the future of open source development."

The brainchild of Trent Nelson (a committer on the Python language project), Snakebite is still under development and is expected to formally debut in a month or so.

"The key principal of Snakebite is that it's an open network, and the concept is intended [to] parallel the very notion of open source," offering projects unlimited access to hardware and platforms that developers otherwise would not have available, Nelson said.

Snakebite serves as a centralised server farm, hosted at two sites at Michigan State University in East Lansing. Two servers are also hosted at a data centre in Chicago.

"I was basically looking for somewhere to host machines with free power and Internet [access]," and without a lot of red tape, Nelson said. The project started out with Nelson himself purchasing computers and letting people log onto them. He estimated spending $20,000 (£14,140) to $25,000 (£17,670) during the first month of the project last spring.

"It became very apparent that the effort required in getting a network of as many different OSes as I would like to, was not a trivial activity," said Nelson.

While centred on open source, Snakebite also is expected to allow projects for commercially developed software, although commercial projects may need to pay a fee to use the network, Nelson said. But the goal of the project is not commercially oriented. "My aim is to do something fun," he said.

Developers, for example, could test a patch to see if it runs on multiple platforms. Interested parties, though, must meet certain criteria pertaining to requirements in such areas as development infrastructure for developing on Snakebite. Developer collaboration also will be enabled.

Technologies including Linux, Windows, and Unix variants, such as IBM AIX and Sun Solaris, are supported on Snakebite, which has had contributions from companies like Microsoft, which has provided Microsoft Developer Network licence access to Windows server OSes. HP contributed some Itanium servers.

Currently, Snakebite features 37 servers talking to each other via a single domain. "It's going to be the epitome of a heterogeneous network," said Nelson.

Snakebite's overseers are looking to open up the network to all things Python and more. Implementations of Python will be supported including CPython, Jython, PyPy, IronPython, and stack-less Python. Developers on these projects will have full access to Snakebite.

Also sought for Snakebite are support for open source projects like the Apache web server and MySQL and Postgres databases.