ActiveState Offers Perl Support Program

The drive for open source software has ridden the Internet's coattails to popularity. One of the many reasons for this phenomenon is Web-based support. Lacking traditional safety nets, developers using open source tools, such as Perl, rely on an extensive network of Web sites and newsgroups to find solutions to their coding problems.

But now, there is an alternative that may be more reassuring to corporate managers. ActiveState Tool Corp. ( is offering PerlDirect, a support program for Perl developers.

ActiveState founder Dick Hardt got the idea for PerlDirect last May when two large financial institutions asked ActiveState to provide them with Perl support. "We put together something for them and we realized it was something other people would want," he says. "The whole idea of open source is becoming much more talked about publicly, so managers are becoming aware of it. ... [But] there's a concern with how much time people have to spend to manage it themselves."

Starting at a minimum of $12,000 a year, ActiveState will provide certified versions of Perl software on CD-ROM and other value-added resources. Some of these benefits include helpdesk support, a weekly newsletter detailing recent developments in the world of Perl and Y2K compliance testing tools. Perl specialists are available to help with development efforts for customers who purchase the gold option, which carries a $60,000 price tag.

Most of ActiveState's PerlDirect customers are using Perl for systems programming, not Internet development, according to Hardt, who was responsible for porting Perl to Windows. "This is a pretty high price point, so it has to be something at an enterprise level rather than down in the Internet group," he says.

Many PerlDirect customers have requested support for Perl on more than one platform, Hardt adds. "The really heavy systems programming is still done in Unix, but among the people we're talking to, NT is something they're running," he says.