Open Source Distribution: Ready to Roll?
Tech Data, as The VAR Guy expected, is the latest distributor to launch an open source channel initiative. Tech Data’s effort (called Open Tech) follows a Synnex-Red Hat initiative called the Open Source Channel Alliance. But are distributors really ready to support open source in the IT channel? Yes and no. Here’s why.
First, the good news: Open source software providers are building successful channel partner programs, as The VAR Guy’s annual Open Source 50 report shows. And this is more than a Linux story, folks. From companies like Alfresco (content management) to Digium (Asterisk IP PBXes) and Compiere (ERP), dozens of open source companies are lining up integrators and channel partners.
Meanwhile, distributors are getting into the open source channel, too.
- In April 2009, Red Hat, Synnex and nearly a dozen software providers launched The Open Source Channel Alliance, which aimed to train nearly 15,000 Synnex resellers to sell, service and support a range of open source options. Hewlett-Packard joined the fun by promoting a server appliance to alliance members.
- By May 2009, The VAR Guy heard rumors Tech Data was planning its own open source initiative.
Here Comes Open Tech
Fast forward to the present, and Tech Data has confirmed its Open Tech initiative. According to a company statement:
Through Open Tech, Tech Data will enable the ISVs developing these applications and the resellers supporting the IT solutions needs of end users nationwide to partner with one another to capitalize on the growing demand for open source.
Tech Data says it has six goals for Open Tech:
- Recruit New Open Source Vendors
- Recruit And Enable New Open Source Resellers
- Establish The Open Tech Community, including a new Open Tech Web portal
- Expand Open Source Licensing Expertise
- Enhance Open Source Sales And Marketing
- Develop Custom-Configured Open Source Bundles
While promising, The VAR Guy has spotted some lingering challenges across the emerging open source IT channel.
Simply put, many of the early open source VARs focus on Linux and lack expertise in ERP, CRM and other applications. So the next-generation of open source VARs will likely require defections from Microsoft Dynamics CRM, SAGE, Oracle, SAP, Lotus and other classic closed-source application environments.
The result: Distributors like Synnex and Tech Data may need to push beyond their traditional reseller bases to find those next-generation open source application resellers.
Still, it’s good to see open and closed source competition growing in the distribution industry.