Another brainstorming project idea:
Some projects have a suite of tests which take a long time to run. This hinders agility.
We could run these tests suites for clients across EC2 instances. We've had great success at Resolver Systems in slicing a test run across several machines and then recombining the results. No doubt some people have similar solutions. In taking the hassle of configuring these machines out of your hands, we could divide the test suite execution time to a fraction of that taken running them in serial on a single machine.
Additionally, we could run tests against multiple versions of Python, or run acceptance / system tests, on multiple browsers. These can all be run in parallel across as many instances as it takes.
The downside of this idea is that unit tests run very quickly, so we provide no value there. Only for long-running acceptance tests is this a useful service - and those are tricky because they so often require so much custom configuration and resources in order to run. Also, like our own acceptance tests, they may be running on Windows clients, which is a more expensive VM to run on EC2.
I don't think it could be made to work with an arbitrary set of projects' tests - the differences between how each project writes and runs their tests are just too great. But we could provide a sort of 'snakebite light' - an available bunch of servers with a variety of Python and browser versions which people could write tests to run against.
Do many people have long-running acceptance tests suites that would run on a cheap Linux-based VM? How comfortable would people be outsourcing this sort of service which is so fundamental to your project? Do you think we'd be overwhelmed by the difficulties inherent in custom configuration each project would need to run their tests? Again, if you love or hate this idea, I'd love to hear about it.