Would you like a free, powerful server for a year to develop an application that could make you money while possibly creating a few jobs? What's not to like, right? If the offer sounds too good to be true, check out the fine print at the source, www.theplanet.com
, a Houston-based hosting company with philanthropic tendencies and a desire to fight unemployment.
But, hurry, The Planet doesn't have an unlimited supply of servers or a bottomless well of philanthropy.
Since launching the Sand Castle program in January, the company has donated more than 120 servers to developers and entrepreneurs seeking to create new applications and products. The Planet is offering 500 free servers.
The criteria for obtaining a machine are painlessly straightforward. People outline their visions for a software application or web-based design service -- and agree to produce a new domain within six months of acceptance into the program.
Applicants cannot be current customers of The Planet. Nor can they have more than 10 employees.
"We created Sand Castle to enable people to begin projects that may have not been possible without the free technology we're providing," said Doug Erwin, The Planet's chairman and CEO. "In turn, we hope these people will create new jobs."
Erwin says his company -- with its eight data centers and more than 50,000 servers -- has the excess capacity to potentially jumpstart at least 500 endeavors.
"While there are indicators of a turnaround, the economy cannot recover without job creation," says Erwin. "Our 500 servers are a small step to help revive the economy."
The machines -- while not the latest and greatest -- are far from shabby. The most basic is a Dell server with Dual Xeon 2.4 processors, a 146GB hard drive, 1GB of RAM, 10Mb per second of unmetered bandwidth, and is loaded with the CentOS 5 operating system.
Each server is hosted in a dedicated, secure environment. The Planet's network of Tier 1 and peering bandwidth providers enable maximum speed and accessibility from anywhere. Developers can even get free technical support 24x7.
One of the recipients of a free server is Chris Latko, who is using the machine to develop an app with two other developers. While Latko refuses to discuss the app, he is effusive in his praise of the Planet's program.
"They gave me a really powerful server that have would cost me about $300 per month if I were to lease it from them," says Latko. "The server has a 1 TB hard drive, dual 3.2 Xeon processors, and 4 gigs of RAM. Plus, they gave me a 64-bit version of RedHat Enterprise. Initially, they gave me a 32-bit version, but, after I told them I'm used to working in 64-bit environments, they upgraded me and waived the $25 fee."
Rice University Benefits
Recently, The Planet offered 50 servers to Rice University students and faculty engaged in entrepreneurial research and development.
Students in Rice's Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business will be among the first to benefit from the free servers. The Jones School ranked fifth in the U.S. in graduate entrepreneurship in a 2009 survey by Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine.
Erwin says other universities have expressed interest in the Sand Castle program.