ownCloud, an open source file-sharing project, announced that former SUSE and Novell executive, Markus Rex, will be joining the company as CEO and CTO. Rex and Frank Karlitschek, ownCloud  founder, will work together on the new commercial entity they formed around the project.

ownCloud already has more than 350,000 users and recently announced a round of funding and the opening of a U.S. headquarters in Boston. The open source file-sharing project, which allows users to file sync and share services on either their own hardware or other hosting and storage options, is up against commercial competitors such as Dropbox and Box.net.

ownCloud Features

Founded this year, ownCloud started as a keynote given by Karlitschek at Camp KDE '10. Rex says that ownCloud is the only file-sharing tool based on an open source platform, thus giving businesses more control over their data and storage costs. Users access files through a web interface or WebDAV, and can view and sync contacts, calendars, bookmarks and perform basic editing tasks online.

Features in development include an image gallery, online text editor and task manager, encryption, desktop sync client and Android and webOS apps. Future plans include tools for connecting to other services and versioning and recovery features.

Expect to see new ownCloud service offerings announced in Q1 of 2012.

Is It Really a Competitor?

ownCloud has a lot of ground to cover before it catches up to Box and Dropbox. Box recently announced its Developer Network, with partners such as Appcelerator, Cloud Foundry, Heroku, Rackspace, SnapLogic and Twilio.

Meanwhile, Dropbox raised US$ 250 million and the five-year-old company currently has more than 50 million users and is valued at US$ 4 billion.

Of course, ownCloud does have the open source community on its side. With Rex at the helm, the new ownCloud commercial effort will be a project to watch in 2012.