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Integrated Linux software to meet Web, networking needs

These integrated Linux software packages could be a reseller's or systems integrator's next great product offering for small and midsized business (SMB) customers.

Ken Milberg, Linux Expert
Occasionally I'm asked why I would pay money for something that I could get for free. What kind of scam is this? In most cases I would agree, but not with respect to open source, computer technology and small and midsized businesses (SMBs). In this tip I'll discuss three open source Linux software offerings for Web, business and networking, and what they can do for you as a reseller or systems integrator.

Web product offering: LAMP and Covalent

Let's start with LAMP. As you may know, LAMP refers to open source software that includes Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP. Together, this provides an operating system, a Web server, a database server and a programming language. Larger companies usually have well-staffed IT departments with a team of developers and infrastructure specialists to install, configure, enhance and support their flavors of LAMP. This is certainly not the case for smaller companies. Here is where the channel professional may sell an open source product package, which offers the support the SMB typically craves.

An example of such an open source product would be Covalent Enterprise Ready Server (ERS). Marketed on Covalent's Web site as the "first comprehensive enterprise solution for Apache server management and the most widely distributed Web infrastructure stack in Fortune 500 enterprises," it provides customers and resellers with improved service quality and advanced support. Covalent also provides LAMP enhancements that include improved manageability, security, Java functionality (by providing Tomcat for middleware) and file-transfer mobility. What really makes this software sing is that it provides for an integrated supported open source Web and middleware environment, which combines Apache and Tomcat with vendor support, documentation and stability This saves the integrator time and resources by not having to customize a middleware solution. This product already is designed to be an integrated product.It runs on Linux, Windows and most flavors of Unix.

Covalent also provides support to its business partners by offering two partner programs: the Certified Partners Program and the Channel Partners Program. The Channel Partners Program is designed to allow partners to team up with Covalent to help them get the most out of the Apache and Tomcat product offerings. This program is available on three levels: Bronze, Silver and Gold. The Silver and Gold levels actually include resale rights for the software. It improves service quality and provides heightened security by uniquely enhancing Apache for enterprise use.

Business product offering: Compiere integrated ERP and CRM software

What about business software? Compiere integrated ERP and CRM is open source software that has really taken hold in the industry. What is almost as impressive as its user base (the total amount of downloads reached 1.2 million since the inception in 2001), is the partnerships that it has made with the dealer channel. World wide, Compiere boasts almost 100 business partners at the present time. These business partners provide the added value to customers that ERP customers require. Anyone who has ever used commercial ERP products (i.e. PeopleSoft and SAP) know that ERP and CRM is far from being considered a boxed solution. Both require lots of hand-holding, functionally and technically speaking.

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This is where you come in. as the channel partner who can give them the added value necessary to appropriately deploy ERP and/or CRM software. Compiere's Web site clearly articulates the commitment the company makes to dealers. "We are committed to distributing Compiere via partners and will not offer competing capabilities and services to provide consulting and ERP implementation services. Compiere knows no channel conflicts. We (Compiere, Inc.) are the back office for our partners." This is a bold statement that most VARs do not hear often enough. Further, it provides three levels of service to their partners, including Authorized, Silver and Gold Partner. The market base for its software consists of SMBs across industries from wholesale distribution to manufacturing. You can download the Compiere ERP and CRM Business Solution.

Networking product offering: Viatta Open Flexible Routeer

What about networking. Have you heard of Vyatta. An open source startup, the product it markets is an Open Flexible Router (OFR). Essentially, it is an enterprise-class type router/firewall/VPN solution that runs on Linux. Recently, the company shifted from a plain vanilla Linux base to a Debian GNU/Linux base for its distribution. Prominently running on its Web page is the partner link that emphasizes the commitment they make to the dealer channel: "Vyatta is actively seeking partnerships with companies that support our vision of changing the networking landscape by delivering enterprise-grade open source router and firewall solutions." As such, the company is looking for channel partners, strategic partners that have complementary technologies and associate partners that receive a commission from all sales originating from their site. The Ready Partner program helps resellers offer network products tailored on their own hardware that can integrate with VARs already integrated Linux solution. These partners receive hardware self certifications, software licenses, technical and sales training, marketing support, lead sharing and an online partner portal.

I'm excited about the potential for this product, as there are many open source products that run on Linux, but few that are fully vendor supported and have the potential to scale as this one. The scalability comes into play, as there has been talk about integrating hardware with this offering, which could really take it to the next level in terms of it becoming a viable alternative to commercial-based networking products.

In conclusion, I will say that while some techno nerds may look down on paying for open source solutions, it's been my experience that the people who control the spending actually have no problem with paying. It helps establish greater credibility with the open source product as it allows SMBs to utilize channel support to implement the software -- which is where you come in.

About the author: Kenneth Milberg is a systems consultant with his own independent consulting firm, Unix-Linux Solutions. He has 15 years of experience with Unix and Linux systems, as well as broad technical and functional experience with AIX, HP, SCO, Linux and Solaris. Milberg holds certifications with IBM (IBM Certified Systems Expert -- eServer p5 and pSeries Enterprise Technical Support AIX 5L V5.3 & IBM Certified Specialist –HACMP), SUN (SCNA,SCSA), HP (HP Certified -- HP-UX administration) Cisco (CCNA) and Oracle (OCP-DBO).

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