VARs/SIs will be the new face of open source support

Customers want to know who to call when something goes wrong with open source solutions, and VARs and SIs are finding themselves the source for support as they move into the open source arena.

IT channel takeaway: Value-added resellers and systems integrators who integrate open source components into their business solutions may discover additional revenue opportunities: Companies are also outsourcing support for their open source applications.

With Salim Lakhani, CEO of Initsoft, an open source solutions provider whose clients have included Adobe and RAE Systems.

Question: What factors are most important in determining the tipping point between choosing proprietary technology rather than open source?

Lakhani: Businesses care about their bottom lines. Bells and whistles aside, if you're getting the same utility from an open source solution as you are from a proprietary solution — for less — then it just makes business sense to go with the open source solution. Security, reliability, scalability and support need to be evaluated within the different solutions so that the TCO is considered instead of the upfront cost alone. We use a strict methodology for evaluating technologies against requirements, and I encourage companies to do the same.

Question: How is the concept of product support changing in open source software — or is it?

Lakhani: As more and more VARs and SIs (value-added resellers and system integrators) start using open source components for creating business solutions, they're becoming the source for support. Frankly, executives don't care about the underlying technology as much as they do about who they're going to call when there's a problem and whether the VAR/SI will be able to help them. From a change perspective, it's generally more economical and reliable for companies to outsource the support for open source applications. As adoption of open source applications increases, more and more vendors are offering support for these open source applications, and the support contracts simply follow the implementation contracts.

Question: Are there certain red flags companies should watch for in the open source market?

Lakhani: I'm always leery about commercial products that turn to the open source model for increasing adoption. If a company is backing an open source product, then will that company be around two years from now or are they open sourcing their products as a last-ditch marketing effort? When adopting open source applications, I prefer using ones with active and mature development communities.

This 3 Questions originally appeared in a weekly report from IT Business Edge.

This was first published in September 2006

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