Technology Giant Plans Open Source Channel Partner Initiative
Tech Data, a $24 billion technology giant with deep Microsoft relationships, has developed a 24-month plan to emerge as “the voice for open source in distribution,” The VAR Guy has learned. The proposed strategy includes potential open source hardware solutions from Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Fujitsu. And it has broad implications for the software industry and the global IT channel. Here’s the scoop.
First, the official statement from Tech Data: “I can confirm that Tech Data is working on this topic [open source in the channel], but it would be premature to discuss the details at this time,” according to a spokesman for the technology distributor.
Now, for The VAR Guy’s report: In recent months, sources say, Tech Data has been floating an Open Source Ecosystem proposal to VARs and technology vendors. And yes, The VAR Guy has seen pieces of the emerging plan.
Hardly surprising: Tech Data is seeking to embrace and recruit many of the companies listed on The VAR Guy’s Open Source 50, an annual report that tracks the most promising open source channel programs.
Assuming Tech Data is moving forward with the plan — which certainly is subject to change — here’s what the emerging strategy includes.
Tech Data’s Target List
Among the open source partners and solutions Tech Data plans to pursue and/or promote:
• Linux (Novell and Red Hat) as a potential alternative to Microsoft Windows
• Zimbra (open source email owned by Yahoo) as a potential alternative to Ipswitch
• Compiere (open source CRM and ERP) as a potential alternative to Intuit
• Red Hat JBoss (open source middleware) as a potential alternative to IBM Websphere
• MySQL (open source database) as a potential alternative to Oracle (ironically, Oracle is acquiring MySQL as part of the Sun Microsystems buyout)
• SugarCRM (open source CRM) as a potential alternative to Microsoft Dynamics
• Pentaho (open source business intelligence) as a potential alternative to Business Objects
• Alfresco (open source content management) as a potential alternative to Microsoft SharePoint
Like The VAR Guy said: The list above and other planned moves by Tech Data point to a dramatic, global plan to promote open source. The strategy could position Tech Data against Synnex, which recently partnered with Red Hat and nearly a dozen other partners to launch the Open Source Channel Alliance (OSCA).
If launched and successful, the Tech Data initiative could train and empower thousands of VARs to recommend, promote, deploy and support a lengthy range of open source applications that compete head-on with entrenched options from Microsoft and closed source software providers. Remember: Tech Data works with more than 125,000 resellers in more than 100 countries.
The Game Plan
Initially, Tech Data’s open source game plan has two goals:
- To develop a road map to educate, train, create awareness and enable Tech Data and their resellers.
- To provide Tech Data with the knowledge and support necessary to be the voice for open source in distribution.
As of January 2009, Tech Data’s distribution network had roughly 1,400 resellers and the company had eight divisions registering more than $1 million in open source-related sales over the last four years.
Going forward, Tech Data’s open source strategy apparently will have short-, mid- and long-term goals. They allegedly include:
• Short Term (within the next few months): Creating a hub for Open Source Communication, including a wiki, blogs and live chats with resellers. Plus new or expanded relationships with SugarCRM, MySQL, Zimbra, Alfresco, Spring Source and Canonical (promoter of Ubuntu). Plus, expanded open source offerings from such hardware vendors as IBM, HP, Dell and Fujitsu. Watch for Tech Data to potentially launch solutions tours, lunch and learns, Webinars, and Web marketing activities.
• Mid-term (July-December 2009): Watch for Tech Data to potentially launch an Open Source Tech University, plus pre-configured solutions. The VAR Guy assumes the effort will include pre-configured open source servers from Dell, HP, IBM and Fujitsu – though that’s speculation on our resident blogger’s part.
• Long-term (throughout 2010): Watch for Tech Data and partners to potentially host an Open Source Symposium, an Open Source Community, professional and training services, and a mini trade show potentially in partnership with OpenSourceWorld (formerly LinuxWorld).
Or communicated more simply, Tech Data’s proposal says:
• Phase I is about awareness, education and branding
• Phase II is about training, certification and recruitment
• And Phase III is about enablement, campaign programs and business continuity
Ultimately, Tech Data hopes the initiatives fulfill three goals:
• Provide consistent technology-awareness messages to Open Source-centric resellers
• Increase participating vendor partners’ overall market share
• Develop an Open Source Community through increased vendor participation and strategic marketing
Now, the Challenges
Of course, Tech Data faces numerous challenges as it seeks to become “the voice of open source in distribution.”
For starters it has to strengthen existing open source relationships and build new ones. Yes, Tech Data has relationships with Novell and Red Hat. But remember: Red Hat partnered with Synnex — a Tech Data Rival — to launch the Open Source Channel Alliance earlier this year. That effort strives to empower 15,000 Synnex resellers to embrace a range of options from nearly a dozen open source application providers.
Also, small open source application providers have limited resources and don’t necessarily have the bandwidth or financial resources required to work with multiple distributors. In recent weeks, open source companies like Hyperic have been acquired while others like SugarCRM have changed CEOs to help navigate the recession.
And finally, The VAR Guy was surprised to see open source VoIP and networking left off Tech Data’s target list. The growing popularity of Asterisk (open source IP PBXes), Digium and Vyatta (open source alternatives to Cisco Systems) are prime opportunities for Tech Data and other distributors.
Regardless, Tech Data should not be underestimated. The company has spent decades building close relationships with thousands of resellers across the world. Now, it apparently plans to extend those relationships into the world of open source.