Is This the Tipping Point for Open Source €œin the Channel€�?

Last month I wrote about an important move “in the channel” - that shadowy but important world of “Value-Added Resellers”, or VARs.

Despite their strange name and low profile, VARs are a critically important part of the computer ecosystem, and getting them to support free software in a big way would have major knock-on effects.

Now comes news – from the excellent The VAR Guy blog – about another huge boost for open source in the channel:

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.

What's particular interesting is Tech Data's “Open Source Ecosystem proposal”, which consists of a series of open source apps that it will be offering to companies instead of proprietary solutions. Here are the main ones:

• 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

These correspond pretty much to the obvious leaders in their categories, but it's interesting to see an outsider's views on which open source apps are enterprise ready.

As The Tech Guy explains:

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.

Those are serious numbers: if this comes off – the timescale is over the next year or so - I think we can expect an equally serious boost to the entire enterprise free software ecosystem. I can't wait.

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