Did Open Source Companies Miss Their Channel Opportunity?
The VAR Guy is scratching his head in confusion. When our resident blogger’s web site officially launched in January 2008, open source was all the rage. And quite a few open source companies were building channel partner programs at the time. Fast forward to the present and it seems like some open source channel partner programs have gone silent — especially as cloud computing continues to generate so much freakin’ hype. But don’t lose hope. Here’s why.
First, what went wrong? Let’s rewind to 2009, when Synnex and Red Hat launched the Open Source Channel Alliance (OSCA) and Tech Data launched the Open Tech effort. The situation looked so darn promising, especially as open source ERP, CRM and groupware companies worked to promote their wares through the OSCA and Open Tech.
But ultimately, OSCA and Open Tech have gone silent. The VAR Guy doesn’t hear much — if anything — about either channel effort. Seems like Synnex and Tech Data VARs are far more interested in traditional on-premise and cloud solutions. Indeed, distributor revenues have surged in the past year as corporations finally refreshed mobile devices, PCs and servers.
Meanwhile, open source companies themselves have been hit-and-miss on the channel partner front. Red Hat is marching toward $1 billion in annual revenues and more than have of the company’s sales come from channel partners. Even better, Red Hat has pushed beyond Linux to promote Jboss Middleware and Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) to channel partners. Sounds promising. The Red Hat Summit is set for May 3-4 in Boston. The agenda looks promising… but so far it’s difficult to find out if Red Hat channel partners will have a dedicated day of activities on May 2…
Digium, another super-promising open source company, just wrapped up participation in the Digium Asterisk World conference in Miami Beach, Fla. Plenty of VARs and distributors are embracing Asterisk, the open source IP PBX. And there are signs partners will push Asterisk into the cloud. But for the most part, Digium had little or no news to share at Asterisk World… quite a head-scratcher for The VAR Guy and his loyal readers.
Also, Pentaho was somewhat quiet during the company’s recent partner Global Partner Summit in San Francisco. Yes, the open source business intelligence company is committed to channel partners. But Pentaho can crank up the partner volume. One piece of news lots of folks overlooked: Pentaho’s global partners of the year list.
Second Chance in the Cloud
In some respects, it seems like cloud computing has stolen open source’s thunder. Or has it? Take a closer look and you’ll discover that the smartest open source companies are adjusting their channel messages to embrace the cloud. Three prime examples:
Open-Xchange, positioned as an open source alternative to Microsoft Exchange, seems to announce a new SaaS channel partner every week. The company expects to have 40 million users by the end of this year; many of those users leverage Open-Xchange deployments that channel partners host on their own.
Zimbra, the open source email platform from VMware, also has a growing list of hosting partners across the channel. And Zimbra 7, launching this week, could further accelerate Zimbra’s partner strategy — especially as Zimbra solutions providers flock to this week’s VMware Partner Exchange conference in Orlando, Fla.
Meanwhile, SugarCRM channel partners are balancing on-premise, self-hosted and cloud-hosted opportunities, according to CEO Larry Augustin. Also, SugarCRM is extending its open source mindset to include more aggressive sales and marketing training with channel partners, Augustin says. The result: SugarCRM revenues rose 50 percent in 2010 vs. 2009.
So, there’s plenty of hope and opportunity for open source in the channel… and in the cloud. Open Source companies just have to do a better job promoting their progress to the masses… and to The VAR Guy.