Hold­ing back on open source

While open source pre­sents great op­por­tu­nity, a large num­ber of chan­nel part­ners have not tapped its ben­e­fits as yet

CRN - - COVER STORY -

Ac­cord­ing to re­search firm IDC, open source­based soft­ware and IT ser­vices are ex­pected to drive ap­prox­i­mately 8 per­cent of global IT ser­vices rev­enue in 2014. Glob­ally, this rep­re­sents an op­por­tu­nity of ap­prox­i­mately $70 bil­lion. In In­dia, go­ing by the same per­cent­age, the mar­ket could be worth $500 mil­lion to $900 mil­lion.

Much of this po­ten­tial is tapped only by large na­tional and MNC sys­tems in­te­gra­tors. A key rea­son for this is that most of the large projects where open source or free soft­ware is used are large en­ter­prise- or govern­ment-driven, hence re­sellers do not have much of a chance to par­tic­i­pate.

An­other rea­son is that tra­di­tion­ally the SMB mar­ket thrived on pi­rated soft­ware, and over a pe­riod of time many cus­tomers re­al­ized that it was cheaper to buy li­censes than mi­grate ap­pli­ca­tions to what the open source world of­fered.

“It’s re­ally not about open source, it’s more about the fact that most of us do not have the nat­u­ral flair for be­ing a ser­vice provider,” says Su­darsan Ran­ganathan, CEO, Veeras In­fotek, Chen­nai. “Open source de­mands that we as re­sellers or so­lu­tion providers guar­an­tee ser­vice­abil­ity around the soft­ware that we ship.” He says that most part­ners feel that a ven­dor brand is more pow­er­ful and also feel more con­fi­dent sell­ing a ven­dor brand. “Hope­fully this will change, be­cause for many of us to sur­vive in fu­ture we need to go be­yond ven­dor brands and build some­thing of our own. One day more chan­nels will have the con­fi­dence to take a tech­nol­ogy that is not in­sured by a third-party ven­dor—and will of­fer that as part of a so­lu­tion.”

Rushabh Me­hta, Founder-Di­rec­tor of the Mum­baibased Web Notes Tech­nolo­gies, agrees. “For tra­di­tional chan­nels to evolve they need to come out of the com­fort zones of the ven­dor brands.”

Kshi­tij Kotak, CEO, For­tune Gr­ey­cells, Mum­bai, who has built an open source plat­form, feels that it is fun­da­men­tally a fear of the tech­nol­ogy that is keep­ing many part­ners away from ex­per­i­ment­ing with open source. “Be­sides, there’s a se­ri­ous short­age of skill-sets around Linux and other open source soft­ware.”

Re­marks Venkatesh Swami­nathan, Coun­try Man­ager, In­dia & South Asia, At­tach­mate, “Commercial ven­dors

“It’s re­ally not about open source, it’s more about the fact that most of us do not have the nat­u­ral flair for be­ing a ser­vice provider” SU­DARSAN RAN­GANATHAN CEO, Veeras In­fotek

of­fer the best route to move from the prod­uct re­selling busi­ness to a con­sult­ing model. For ex­am­ple, Suse—an At­tach­mate com­pany—of­fers pack­ages where L1 and L2 sup­port which are less com­plex can be han­dled by part­ners while L3 and above can be man­aged by the ven­dor. A part­ner is free to pack­age sup­port costs as suit­able to the cus­tomer.”

Cul­tural shift

Many prac­ti­tion­ers opine that to em­brace open source the man­age­ment of a part­ner or­ga­ni­za­tion needs to change its mind­set. “Open source mod­els are dif­fer­ent, and there needs to be a cul­tural shift within the or­ga­ni­za­tion. The man­age­ment needs to ap­pre­ci­ate the process, phi­los­o­phy and val­ues that open source brings,” says Mahshad Koohgoli, Pres­i­dent & CEO of the US-based Prote­code which sells soft­ware com­pli­ance so­lu­tions tar­get­ing open source users and de­vel­op­ers.

Fu­tureNet Tech­nolo­gies, Chen­nai, is one of the few part­ners in the coun­try with a suc­cess­ful open source prac­tice. “Our prin­ci­ple is to first test and try things our­selves and en­sure that we have in­ter­nal gu­rus in a tech­nol­ogy be­fore we of­fer it to our cus­tomers for de­ploy­ment,” says L Ashok, CEO, Fu­tureNet.

Adds Ab­has Ab­hi­nav, CEO, Deep­root Tech­nolo­gies, Ben­galuru, which earns around ` 75 lakh an­nu­ally in ser­vices rev­enue around open source, “Free and open source means that you end up giv­ing away free what you have cre­ated. We know there are hun­dreds or thou­sands of cus­tomers who are us­ing our soft­ware free with­out pro­vid­ing us a paisa as rev­enue. It takes a lot of will power to ac­tu­ally ad­mit that and wait for pay­ing cus­tomers.”

“Our prin­ci­ple is to first test and try things our­selves and en­sure that we have in­ter­nal gu­rus in a tech­nol­ogy be­fore we of­fer it to our cus­tomers for de­ploy­ment” L ASHOK CEO, Fu­tureNet Tech­nolo­gies

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