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