Open Source Managed File Transfer Software:
Is it Really an Option? [Updated – 2017]
I originally wrote this post back in July 2012, after a number of requests for open source Managed File Transfer from potential customers. They’d found us via our web site, which clearly promoted a wide variety of commercial products, with no reference to open source, however they were only interested in an open source options.
Free clearly doesn’t pay the bills, however being a bit of an industry geek, I decided to do the research and find out what was available. I identified a couple of SourceForge projects, which I’ve been following over the past 4-5 years.
For the record, I’m a fan of open source. Our previous Technical Director was a thrifty Northerner, who converted me. We ran various elements of the business very successfully on open source projects. Our support ticketing system was based on OTRS and our monitoring system used Nagios. Both were mature applications, widely used in the open source community and provided considerable functionality at a price that suited!
When it comes to open source Managed File Transfer though, the landscape is patchy at best. Open source FTP servers exist in abundance and can provide the landing point for incoming and outgoing files, but open source Managed File Transfer projects appear to be scarce. I suspect that this is because Managed File Transfer hasn’t been one of those technologies that every company deploys.
Open source Managed File Transfer trends
My research over the past 4-5 years has highlighted a few trends that don’t bode well for open source Managed File Transfer projects, and may be a reflection of the wider open source landscape. In general, they have slotted into the following categories:
- The company is acquired and the free option is removed. Some or all of the functionality is incorporated into a commercial offering.
- The part-time developer gets a contract or new job and the project gets shelved.
- The project is labeled as Managed File Transfer, but doesn’t contain the key functions of all commercial offerings in the market.
- Commercial vendors offer a pseudo open source product with limited functionality and encourage migration to their commercial solution.
Some open source MFT that is no more
These are some of the open source projects that I have been following:
Policy Patrol by OPSWAT – has now become Metadefender Email Security. The Managed File Transfer element of the open source project appears to have been shut down.
ShieldShare by BlockMaster – now appears to be part of the DataLocker stable but their focus is on encrypted storage. It’s unclear whether the product was acquired for the encryption capabilities. Project shut down.
Appterra – their open source supply chain integration platform with Managed File Transfer capabilities was acquired by Descartes. The open source project has been shut down.
DivConq MFT – a SourceForge project that looked promising but the developers seem to have ended the project and the associated web site has closed down.
Karonte – positioned as an open source Managed File Transfer solution but it doesn’t have the basic functionality we consider critical for MFT.
Genuine open source projects
There are just two genuine projects that I’ve found so far. I couldn’t recommend either, as I’ve not invested any time personally or asked our technical consultants to review them, however they have ongoing development and support packages.
Yade – an open source project, previously going under the name of SOSFTP. This project has been around since at least 2012. SOS Berlin lists a number of customers on their web site and provides support and consulting packages. Currently my favourite option, based upon the length of time they’ve been around.
WAARP – a relative newcomer to the market but it looks to have all the basics covered. It also provides commercial support options and their web site provides visibility of who is involved in the project. This is certainly one to watch.
If you’re a user of either Yade or WAARP, I’d be interested in hearing from you. I’m keen to understand how complete the project is, how responsive the development team are and what your experience of their support offering has been like.
Whilst the open source marketplace can be a fantastic resource for some business applications, Managed File Transfer isn’t currently one of them. If your business is in the tech space or you’ve an extensive development and technical team then open source Managed File Transfer may be a viable option for you.
However, Managed File Transfer is mission critical for almost all of our customers and many come to us looking to mitigate the risks associated with supporting a bespoke or homegrown solution. As developers and contractors move on, many companies we speak to are stuck with a solution that has minimal documentation and the knowledge required to make changes or fix faults has been lost.
If you’d like to discuss your Managed File Transfer requirements, I’d be pleased to talk them through with you. You may be surprised at how much bang you get for your buck these days in commercially available products.