I’m a big fan of Sandstorm the open source platform for self-hosting web applications. Sandstorm has been one of my go-to for web based app’s since I stumbled across it in 2015. I wrote a number of posts about Sandstorm back then, right around the time the idea of a BC edtech collaborative was beginning to form. When the OpenETC launched, Sandstorm was one of the first apps that we set-up in the collaborative, and it quickly became something of a swiss army knife of disposable web apps for me. Rarely a week goes by when I don’t fire up one of the open source apps in Sandstorm in place of a commercial web service.
2 years ago, Sandstorm went into hibernation. The core development team began taking permanent positions with other companies and Sandstorm became a side of the desk project for them and, while the application has continued to perform wonderfully, you could see the writing on the wall that Sandstorm was winding down. One of the key components that kept the project going was that there was a hosted instance of the platform, Sandstorm Oasis, that provided a bit of revenue for the project and incentive for the core developers to stay involved. However, Sandstorm recently announced that Oasis will be shutting down at the end of the year, meaning that the project now has no revenue coming in, and little in terms of an open source development community left to support it. While the application continues to work, it is clear that it is only a matter of time before the code base becomes outdated and the project likely dies completely.
I am a bit surprised that Sandstorm never caught on and was more widely adopted or supported, considering it was just coming of age right around the time that interest in issues like data sovereignty, data privacy and the coming of the GDPR were just starting to peak. Here was a security focused application that made using other open source web-based apps both easy and secure. It had what looked like a good SaaS business model developing that should have been appealing to smaller and mid-sized organizations looking to deploy web-based applications. In essence, a good idea at the right time with a viable open source business model to help sustain it. But still, unable to make it work.
So, while it looks like my time with Sandstorm is coming to an end, the concept of having a self-hosted platform capable of letting me install and use many web-based apps is not. The OpenETC has been exploring Cloudron as a possible alternative, and this morning on Mastodon I saw a post (sigh, ok a toot) from Doug Belshaw pointing me to a self-hosted platform called Maadix which appears to be very Sandstorm like in its approach.
All this is to say, there are options. And I suspect there will be more open source options emerging in the future as interest among both organizations and individuals looking for more self-hosted cloud-like options that put the emphasis on privacy, data sovereignty, and local control grows.