Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Canonical Ubuntu Partner ProgramsA landmark event occurred today when the Open Source Channel Alliance launched. Although far from perfect, the alliance shows that Linux and open source applications are gaining momentum with mid-market resellers and solutions providers. The problem: Red Hat is a driving force in the alliance, and Canonical isn't involved.

First, some background. The Open Source Channel Alliance initially involves almost a dozen companies, including Red Hat, Synnex (a major IT distributor) and numerous open source application providers. Working together, alliance members will promote open source solutions to roughly 15,000 Synnex resellers. Those resellers, in turn, target mid-size business customers across North America.

It's a compelling strategy. And Canonical needs something similar. To the company's credit, Canonical has made major progress building partnerships with Hewlett-Packard and IBM, among others.  And in some instances, Canonical's push to promote Ubuntu Server Edition in Amazon's cloud bypassses the need for a traditional distribution channel.

Still, thousands of VARs, solutions providers and managed service providers (MSPs) continue to recommend and deploy IT systems for small, midsize and large companies. More than 50 percent of Red Hat's annual sales involve those types of channel partners. And other open source companies are getting hip to the channel -- as The VAR Guy's Open Source 50 report reveals.

So, where's Canonical? Admittedly, the company has its hands full developing Ubuntu 9.04, Ubuntu 9.10 and Landscape updates. But stay patient. Based on some educated guesses, I think Canonical will show more channel progress by mid-2009. In the meantime, Canonical should take a close look at Red Hat and the Open Source Channel Alliance to see how go-to-market partner strategies are evolving.

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