The open source OwnCloud project enables users to set up their own cloud storage service, analogous in many ways to what the proprietary DropBox service provides today.

OwnCloud is becoming more than just an open source project; it’s now a commercial entity too. Helming the new company as the CEO and CTO of OwnCloud is former Novell SUSE Linux CTO Markus Rex. Rex told that the plan is to have commercial products and services in the first quarter of 2012.

In terms of how much money OwnCloud has raised from venture capital to help fund the business, Rex declined to provide a precise figure. He did however note that the funding is significant and well into the seven-digit range.

At this point, Rex noted that the company is still determining the exact mix of products and the business model for OwnCloud. The model will likely include some form of support on top of the open source base. There will also possibly be some form of proprietary or paid extensions that provides additional enterprise functionality beyond the open source project.

“There are some feature sets that are typically done by paid developers, things like a real solid hardening,” Rex said. “Also things like a management panel, which is not something you need if you only have one instance of OwnCloud running but if you have multiple instances, you likely need that.”

One service OwnCloud will not be providing is an actual hosted cloud storage service. Unlike DropBox, which only has a cloud service, OwnCloud is all about enabling users to build their own cloud storage, independent of a specific cloud vendor.

“We are a software company, and we do not sell gigabytes, and we don’t charge by gigabyte,” Rex said.

As to why OwnCloud will not have its own cloud service, Rex noted that it wants to empower service providers and not compete with them.

“We want to augment the existing storage landscape out there and we want to give customers the best user experience,” Rex said. “That means they get to pick and choose, wherever they want to store their data, whether it’s in their own basement or they want to rent storage space somewhere, I don’t particularly care.”

While OwnCloud is an open source project and can be used by anyone, the project was included as part of the recent openSUSE 12.1 Linux distribution release. Rex stressed that his goal is to expand the base for OwnCloud and get it included in as many places as possible. One possible route could be hardware vendors.

“We’ve very interested and have started discussion with various large companies around joint sales and OEMing,” Rex said. “Watch out, there is lots more to come!”

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