Would You Dial An Open Source Help Desk?

From time to time, MSPmentor explores open source trends in the managed services market. There are anecdotal examples of MSPs leveraging open source. But for the most part, I think MSPs serving small business leverage traditional, Microsoft- and Windows-centric tools. Still, OTRS (Open Technology Real Services) caught my attention this week with a 3.0 help desk beta release. As you may have guessed, OTRS focuses on open source solutions. Is the OTRS help desk ready for prime time? Here's a reality check.

First, what exactly is the OTRS help desk? This video, produced by OTRS, provides some clues:

True Believers?

OTRS claims to focus on ITIL-compatible IT Service Management (ITSM) solutions. The latest 3.0 beta release includes an Ajax-powered interface designed to dispatch help tickets 30 percent faster than previous builds. The company says more than 80,000 organizations already use OTRS; key adopters apparently include NASA, Siemens, Nokia, and Toshiba. The OTRS solution is available on-premise or in a managed, hosted configuration.

So far, the OTRS partner program seems to target systems integrators rather than MSPs. And frankly, I haven't heard from any MSPs that use OTRS.

Signs of Success

Still, I'm intrigued. In recent months I've heard from a growing list of open source companies -- such as Groundwork Open Source (GWOS) and Canonical -- that are targeting managed services providers and hosting providers. Plus, there are anecdotal signs of open source success across the MSP market. For instance:
  • N-able's N-central remote monitoring and management (RMM) platform was written atop Linux.
  • MSPs such as Rezitech use open source for various data center and unified communications efforts. (Example: The Asterisk open source IP PBX)
  • And most of the major RMM tool providers are developing management capabilities for Linux servers, desktops and mobile devices.
Admittedly, I think most small business MSPs leverage closed source solutions to fulfill most of their customer needs. But MSPmentor will be watching to see if OTRS and other open source companies reach out to more aggressively to MSPs.

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