The developers behind the security-enhanced operating system Qubes OS are planning looking to offer commercial versions in order to raise funds to expand their team.
Qubes OS, which began life in 2010, provides security by isolation. Based on the bare-metal hypervisor Xen it supports multiple self-contained virtual machines (VMs), which are ‘unaware' of existence of others and have no control over the hypervisor layer. The applications are also separated from the data, and networking and connectivity can all be managed on a per-VM basis.
Users can create a dedicated VM for banking, one for email, one for personal browsing, a disposable one for testing, plus a vault VM for storing passwords and encryption keys which has no connection to the internet. While most VM templates are Linux-based, it is possible to run Windows from within Qubes OS too.
The operating system which has been praised by Edward Snowden, has been largely self-supported by the developers themselves together with community donations and grants from the Open Technology Fund.
Writing on the Qubes OS website lead developer Joanna Rutkowska explained the reasoning behind plans to commercialise Qubes OS.
"In order to continue to deliver on its promise of strong desktop security, Qubes must retain and expand its core team, and this requires substantial funding.
"At this point, we believe the only realistic way to achieve this is through commercialisation, supplemented by community funding."
The new versions will be bespoke creations, she went on: "Commercial editions of Qubes OS will be customised to meet special corporate requirements."
These requirements might include hardened security or special features and integrations.
"Two features that might be particularly attractive to corporate customers are (1) ‘locking down' dom0 [the Xen hypervisor admin domain] in order to separate the user and administrator roles and (2) integrating our local management stack with a corporation's remote management infrastructure," Rutkowska said.
One money-raising idea that the Qubes team considered but rejected was creating and selling their own secure laptop.
"There are a number of challenges here, both in terms of making the hardware trustworthy enough to merit our 'seal of approval', and from a business and logistics perspective. For these reasons, we don't plan to pursue this option in the immediate future," Rutkowka said.
Rutkowska has previously pointed out that it is difficult to trust components such as processors and controllers because much of their workings are impenetrable, arguing for more efforts to be put into open source hardware.
In spite of the push for commercialisation, Rutkowska says the core Qubes OS will remain open source.
"In the event that any corporate features require reworking the core Qubes code, that new code will remain open source," she wrote.
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