A promising start-up company is offering to provide enterprise support for open-source software. SpikeSource, founded last year by CTO Murugan Pal, has recently signed up Kim Polese as CEO and will go live in December.

It plans to test, certify and support a variety of "stacks" of open-source software tailored for enterprise customers. "We are not a component, or product, vendor. We're a services company. And we're vendor independent," Polese explained.

Though open-source software like the Apache server MySQL database and the JBoss application server are gaining wider acceptance with companies, most open-source companies have focused on supporting specific projects, rather than combinations of software.

"Enterprise architects are faced with a huge assortment of open-source building materials. What works with what?" Polese asked. "Right now, figuring that out is up to the IT staff, and it takes a lot of time and effort. We save them that effort," she said.

SpikeSource's services will be similar to those being prepared by another venture-captial backed startup, SourceLabs,which was publicly announced last week. "We're both clearly in the same new market," Polese said of SourceLabs. "That's a good thing. Competition makes markets."

SourceLabs, which received $3.5 million in venture funding, including an investment from Ignition Partners, plans to begin certifying and testing open-source software, as well as selling open-source support and maintenance subscriptions similar to those offered by Red Hat.

"There are companies starting to realise that this is an interesting space," said Brian Behlendorf, a founder of the Apache project, who is familiar with SpikeSource.

Though open-source companies have tended to focus on supporting a single program, there is a growing demand for vendors who can assemble a variety of open-source technologies into a single stack of "known quantities," without being wedded to any one project, said Behlendorf, who also serves as chief technology officer of CollabNet.

"I think that's where this new breed of companies are perhaps different. They're not agnostic, but over time they can evolve. If a better open-source Web server comes out, they can rip out Apache and put that in," he said.

Over the last year, SpikeSource developers have popped up on discussion lists for a number of open-source projects, asking questions about software that could be used to manage a collection of open-source software, including OpenPKG software installation manager, the Ximian Red Carpet software management system.

SpikeSource has one advantage in that it has Polese on board, who, as a well-known face to the media, is likely to guarantee press coverage. But whether this will translate into a success is another question, according to Ron Schmelzer, senior analyst with ZapThink. "You have to show a track record, even if you're Kim Polese, because the investing climate really prefers substance over fluff."

"I think the environment is gone now where you can take a company public on promise," he added. "You have to have established customers and established market."