OPEN SOURCE OP­PUR­TU­NI­TIES

So far, most part­ners have been re­luc­tant in ac­quir­ing ex­per­tise in open source so­lu­tions and ser­vices. How­ever, as it gains mo­men­tum, it may be im­per­a­tive for part­ners to build an open source prac­tice

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COVER STORY

So far, most part­ners have been re­luc­tant in ac­quir­ing ex­per­tise in open source so­lu­tions and ser­vices. How­ever, as it gains mo­men­tum, it may be im­per­a­tive

for part­ners to build an open source prac­tice

Over the past decade, open source soft­ware has moved from be­ing un­sta­ble yet cut­tingedge source code that only geeks used to be­ing a ro­bust busi­ness propo­si­tion which SMBs as well as For­tune 500 en­ter­prises have adopted. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, op­por­tu­ni­ties around open source for tier-2 chan­nel part­ners have also ex­panded. To­day there is per­haps no tech­nol­ogy, ver­ti­cal or do­main where open source does not of­fer a value propo­si­tion to cus­tomers look­ing for a choice.

While in the first decade of the mil­len­nium the open source fo­cus was around ap­pli­ca­tions such as mes­sag­ing and host­ing, to­day the op­por­tu­ni­ties are big­ger and cus­tomer bases much larger. Here are some of the

“Cus­tomers would find it eas­ier to mi­grate from Win­dows XP to Linux. Ubuntu will run com­fort­ably on old hard­ware, with lower mem­ory foot­print and disk space” PRAKASH AD­VANI Man­ager, Part­ner Sales, Canon­i­cal, Cen­tral Asia

emerg­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties you might want to con­sider.

Desk­top mi­gra­tion

Ac­cord­ing to re­search firm Net­Mar­ket­Share, Win­dows XP ac­counted for nearly 30 per­cent of all desk­tops con­nected to the In­ter­net dur­ing Fe­bru­ary 2014. Mi­crosoft wants all these users to mi­grate to Win­dows 8 by April 8, 2014 be­cause the com­pany is of­fi­cially dis­con­tin­u­ing sup­port for the OS on that date.

Mi­crosoft es­ti­mates the mar­ket op­por­tu­nity to be worth $700 mil­lion for mi­gra­tion to Win­dows 8, in In­dia alone.

How­ever, this may not be an easy propo­si­tion for many cus­tomers. Many are us­ing Win­dows XP on older Pen­tium 4 com­put­ers with mem­ory as low as 512 MB, and some of the older hard­ware is not suited for up­grad­ing to the lat­est Win­dows soft­ware.

Says Prakash Ad­vani, Man­ager, Part­ner Sales, Canon­i­cal, Cen­tral Asia, “Many cus­tomers would find it eas­ier to mi­grate from Win­dows XP to a Linux desk­top than to a Win­dows 8. Ubuntu will run com­fort­ably in older hard­ware, and with lower foot­prints of both mem­ory and disk space.”

Ben­galuru-based East­ern En­gi­neer­ing Sys­tems, an in­dus­trial tools man­u­fac­turer, re­cently mi­grated around 60 desk­tops from Win­dows XP. “While we moved around 30 users to Win­dows, we saved ` 20,000 on li­cens­ing costs alone for the OS and Of­fice per user for the other 30 users. We could also re­tain most of our 3- to 4-year-old PCs for Linux,” in­forms S De­varaju, Head, MIS, East­ern En­gi­neer­ing Sys­tems.

Cus­tomers can avail stan­dard sup­port from chan­nel part­ners for as low as ` 1,500 per desk­top per year. How­ever, sub­scrip­tions from paid sup­port ven­dors such as At­tach­mate (Suse) and Red Hat would be be­tween ` 2,500 and ` 5,000 which may not look very at­trac­tive com­pared to the $90 be­ing of­fered by Mi­crosoft as a sin­gle-time up­grade.

Cloud and vir­tu­al­iza­tion

From be­ing a project pro­moted by data cen­ter ven­dor Rackspace three years ago, OpenS­tack, un­der an in­de­pen­dent foun­da­tion, has ma­tured to be­come a project with the max­i­mum num­ber of con­trib­u­tors af­ter Linux.

In­dia be­ing a price-con­scious mar­ket, many be­lieve that cus­tomers are likely to con­sider an OpenS­tack so­lu­tions ven­dor to save on li­cens­ing costs.

The OpenS­tack Foun­da­tion is try­ing to pro­mote the plat­form among IT so­lu­tions providers. Says Mark Col­lier, COO, OpenS­tack Foun­da­tion, “We be­lieve that with our lat­est re­leases we have the most com­pelling al­ter­na­tive to the pro­pri­etary ven­dors, low­er­ing costs for the cus­tomer and in­creas­ing prof­its for the im­ple­men­ta­tion part­ner.”

While many In­dian chan­nel part­ners are still ex­plor­ing the idea of pitch­ing in with OpenS­tack, a few like Ahmed­abad-based Ap­tira IT Ser­vices have at­tained the Gold Part­ner sta­tus. “We have al­ready ex­e­cuted half a dozen projects with our In­dian team, with deal sizes from $50,000 on­ward,” says Kavit Mun­shi, CTO & EVP, Ap­tira.

It’s not just OpenS­tack which is of­fered as an op­tion. Vir­tu­al­iza­tion soft­ware such as KVM and Xen are be­ing de­ployed es­pe­cially in IT-ITeS com­pa­nies. “Many cus­tomers who do not need the high­end man­age­ment fea­tures of VMware are opt­ing for KVM. With our ex­per­tise in KVM, we are able to of­fer ev­ery­thing that a cus­tomer wants at a frac­tion of the cost,” says Ab­has Ab­hi­nav, CEO of the Ben­galuru-based Deep­root Linux.

While a full-fledged server li­cense from VMware would cost $4,000 (`2.5 lakh) on the street, Deep­root will deliver the ser­vices for as low as ` 35,000 with round-the-year sup­port.

Net­work and se­cu­rity

Since the ad­vent of OpenFlow and soft­ware-de­fined net­work­ing (SDN), the use of open source soft­ware to build so­lu­tions in net­work­ing has in­creased. A num­ber of new tech­nolo­gies have evolved, and new

“Many cus­tomers who do not need the high­end man­age­ment fea­tures of VMware are opt­ing for KVM. We can of­fer ev­ery­thing to a cus­tomer at a frac­tion of the cost” AB­HAS AB­HI­NAV CEO, Deep­root Linux “With our lat­est re­lease of OpenS­tack, we have an al­ter­na­tive to the pro­pri­etary ven­dors; low­er­ing costs for the cus­tomer and in­creas­ing prof­its for the part­ner” MARK COL­LIER COO, OpenS­tack Foun­da­tion “We are urg­ing part­ners to try Vy­atta if their cus­tomers are look­ing for an al­ter­na­tive to pro­pri­etary net­work­ing ven­dors es­pe­cially for VPNS and fire­walls” EDGAR DIAS Coun­try Man­ager, Bro­cade In­dia

“NoSQL is clearly the fu­ture, and a so­lu­tion provider who in­vests in the plat­form will be able to solve cus­tomers’ big data prob­lems, and will grow faster than oth­ers” KA­MAL BRAR Vice Pres­i­dent, APAC, Mon­goDB

ven­dors have ar­rived, and there have been many high­pro­file ac­qui­si­tions. In early 2012 Ni­cira was ac­quired by VMware for about $1.2 bil­lion. Later, Vy­atta got ac­quired by Bro­cade Com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

“We are urg­ing part­ners to try Vy­atta if their cus­tomers are look­ing for an al­ter­na­tive to pro­pri­etary net­work­ing ven­dors es­pe­cially for VPNs and fire­walls,” says Edgar Dias, Coun­try Man­ager, Bro­cade In­dia. “If the cus­tomer needs sup­port, we can of­fer paid sub­scrip­tion at a frac­tion of the cost of run­ning pro­pri­etary net­work hard­ware.”

In Fe­bru­ary, Dell an­nounced a part­ner­ship with Cu­mu­lus Net­works. Both Cu­mu­lus and Vy­atta run on stan­dard x86 hard­ware and ship both as a vir­tual ap­pli­ance and a bare metal OS. “By de-cou­pling the net­work soft­ware from the net­work switch, we are step­ping into the next level of IT man­age­ment. Cu­mu­lus is able to of­fer this at an at­trac­tive cost be­cause it is able to lever­age free and open source soft­ware,” ex­plains Amardeep Singh Dang, Coun­try Man­ager, Net­work­ing, Dell In­dia.

“Our open source backup so­lu­ton re­duces the ac­qui­si­tion cost for a 30-user net­work by $2,000 against the ba­sic commercial of­fer­ing from com­pe­ti­tion” KSHI­TIJ KOTAK CEO, For­tune Gr­ey­cells

A num­ber of open source net­work­ing soft­ware projects (such as CFEngine, Pup­pet, Gan­glia and Chef) have ma­tured, and part­ners have started us­ing these to man­age cus­tomer net­works at a lower cost.

NoSQL and big data

One of the big­gest trends in the data­base world is the NoSQL move­ment which is a rad­i­cal shift pro­vid­ing a mech­a­nism for stor­age and data re­trieval that is mod­eled on means other than the tab­u­lar re­la­tions used in re­la­tional data­bases.

Over the past four years al­most 100 new projects have been launched, 85 per­cent of them open sourced. Mon­goDB, the com­pany be­hind one of the most pop­u­lar NoSQL data­bases, has even set up a sales oper­a­tion and is ey­ing part­ners.

“NoSQL is clearly the fu­ture, and a so­lu­tion provider who in­vests in the plat­form will be able to solve cus­tomers’ big data prob­lems, and will grow faster than oth­ers. Mongo is free and open sourced,” says Ka­mal Brar, Vice Pres­i­dent, APAC, Mon­goDB.

Re­cently Flip­kart moved to Mon­goDB for its user en­gage­ment plat­form, while com­peti­tor Snapdeal chose Aerospike, an­other NoSQL plat­form, to speed up its prod­uct cat­a­log.

Stor­age and backup

The en­ter­prise stor­age mar­ket was ex­pected to grow to $23 bil­lion in 2013 and is ex­pected to reach $38 bil­lion in 2017. A re­search re­port by IHS Sup­ply says that with the ad­vent of soft­ware-de­fined stor­age more cus­tomers will bet on open source so­lu­tions.

“With our plat­form, cus­tomers can set up en­ter­prise­class stor­age on com­mod­ity server hard­ware,” says Vikram Fer­nan­des, Di­rec­tor, Sys­tems En­gi­neer­ing, Nex­enta Soft­ware Sys­tems In­dia. Nex­enta has built en­ter­prise-class stor­age on top of OpenSo­laris.

Mum­bai-based For­tune Gr­ey­cells has been ship­ping Black­box, a backup and high avail­abil­ity so­lu­tion. “We have lever­aged the power of open source. Not only is Linux more sta­ble and se­cure, it is not re­source-hun­gry. Ac­cord­ing to our es­ti­mates, we bring the ac­qui­si­tion cost for a 30-user net­work down by $2,000 as com­pared to the most ba­sic commercial of­fer­ing from the com­pe­ti­tion,” says Kshi­tij Kotak, CEO, For­tune.

A num­ber of plat­forms for NAS, in­clud­ing FreeNAS and Open­filer, have emerged over the past few years. Open source back-up plat­forms such as Za­manda and Bac­ula have also seen tremen­dous ma­tu­rity. “We of­fer en­ter­prise Bac­ula sup­port at less than ` 50,000 with all the fea­tures of Sy­man­tec Net­backup which is usu­ally priced above ` 6 lakh,” says Arvind Swamy, G-Net So­lu­tions, Coim­bat­ore.

Busi­ness ap­pli­ca­tions

Till about three years back most busi­ness ap­pli­ca­tions around open source were termed im­ma­ture or un­sta­ble. How­ever, a num­ber of new ap­pli­ca­tions have since evolved, and they are seen not just as an al­ter­na­tive but even as a pop­u­lar choice among cus­tomers.

CRM ap­pli­ca­tions such as Su­garCRM and VtigerCRM have seen tremen­dous trac­tion in the past few years as al­ter­na­tives to the Sales­Force and MS plat­forms. Many part­ners have built value-added ser­vices around Su­garCRM.

A pop­u­lar idea is to in­te­grate VoIP ap­pli­ca­tions with open source CRM. A com­bi­na­tion of As­ter­isk and Su­garCRM is of­fered by at least 10 chan­nel part­ners across the coun­try. Bhi­lad-based En­jay IT So­lu­tions has writ­ten MS Out­look plug-ins as well as mo­bile clients for pop­u­lar plat­forms that in­te­grate well with Su­garCRM.

ERP and BI have also caught the imag­i­na­tion of sev­eral part­ners. Ben­galuru-based Creda­tiv and Del­hibased Navyug In­fos­o­lu­tions are work­ing on build­ing so­lu­tions around OpenERP, a free ERP plat­form.

Delhi-based Open Labs Busi­ness So­lu­tions is ex­plor­ing the mar­ket around plat­forms such as Try­ton (an open source ERP), Pen­taho (open source BI plat­form), Ma­gento (an open source e-com­merce plat­form) and Mon­goDB. “The cus­tomer sav­ings are usu­ally in the tens of thou­sands of dol­lars when they work with us be­cause al­most all so­lu­tions are built on top of free soft­ware,” says Sha­roon Thomas, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor & CEO, Open Labs.

An­other Delhi-based com­pany, Sa­mayveda, is of­fer­ing sup­port ser­vices for pop­u­lar cloud­based plat­forms such as Ama­zon, Google Com­pute, Heroku, Cloud Foundry, Rackspace cloud and En­gine Yard. “Most of these are built on open source, and we lever­age our open source skills and strong un­der­stand­ing of REST APIs to build Sup­port-as-aSer­vice model. Cus­tomers pay on a per hour or per month ba­sis,” says Vikas Ruhil, CEO, Sa­mayveda.

Cover De­sign : Deep­jy­oti Bhowmik

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