Contegix: Managed Services Built On Open Source

Generally speaking, the vast majority of managed service providers (MSPs) grew up as Microsoft VARs. But Contegix CEO Matthew Porter proves there's more than one way to conquer the managed services and managed hosting markets. I spoke with Porter earlier April 9 to learn why open source technologies -- such as Confluence, Hyperic, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Zimbra -- play central roles in his company.

Hyperic CEO Javier Soltero also joined our call. But neither Soltero nor Porter turned the discussion into an open source vs. closed source debate. Rather, Porter described the business drivers -- a specific customer horror story -- that inspired him to launch Contegix and embrace Hyperic's software.

I could summarize Porter's views, but the Contegix name says it all:

"The name "Contegix" stems from the Latin word "contego" which means "to shield or to protect." Our philosophy is to take every precaution possible, from our redundant power to intelligently routed network to our management principles, to ensure that your Internet presence is shielded from downtime."
Using that approach, Contegix was spun off from Porter's previous company about five years ago, and Contegix's customer base has grown to include Fortune 500 companies.

Growth at the 50-person MSP continues amid the recession. "Nobody wants to take on more capex [capital expenditures]," said Porter.  "We can deliver and manage the application infrastructures for a customer at a single, monthly fixed cost with no capex, no new personnel needed and no training required."

On the technology front, Porter bet on Hyperic as Contegix's managed services platform. He explains the decision in this blog post:
Hyperic HQ drastically increases our monitoring capabilities by focusing on the health of the server and the applications in your infrastructure. Purpose-built for web infrastructure, and architected to consider all layers of infrastructure including hardware, middleware, virtualization and applications, Hyperic HQ delivers system monitoring, trending, and analysis.

Red Hat and Beyond

As a Red Hat Gold partner, Contegix gradually bet more and more of its business on open source. But if you ask Porter about Contegix's use of Hyperic, open source is not the first thing on his mind.

"It's really about finding a partner that actually sits down and listens to their customers," said Porter. "That's what Hyperic is all about. I like the fact that they are a transparent company. It has nothing to do with open source vs. closed source. Anytime you work with a vendor and they are open and honest with you, it gives you faith that they are as invested in us as we are with them."

Still, Hyperic itself made a conscious decision a few years ago to shift from a closed source to an open source model. "Our target customers believed that their needs were so unique that often wound up searching for open source options," said Hyperic CEO Soltero. "We filled the void with Hyperic."

Adds Porter: "When we looked at Hyperic's feature set and our internal needs, we knew they were our answer. If we had to replace Hyperic, I'm not sure what we'd do."

Open Source Reality Check

Of course, it's important to keep the chatter above in perspective. Hyperic's PR firm was kind enough to connect me with Porter, so Porter's commitment to Hyperic shouldn't be surprising.

And to be sure, many MSPs will never walk away from more traditional closed source monitoring and management solutions -- many of which are now available in easy-to-deploy SaaS (software as a service) configurations.

Still, MSPs need to keep an open mind about open source. Over and over again, I hear about blended solutions -- where an MSP used open source to fill in a gap that closed source couldn't fill.

And gradually, I'm hearing from a growing list of open source software companies -- names like GroundWork Open Source, Hyperic, Untangle, Zenoss and Zmanda -- that are working more and more closely with MSPs.

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