open-source-profitsAlas, Red Hat is the only publicly held open source company that's consistently profitable. Finding privately held, profitable open source companies is like searching for the proverbial needle in the... well, you get the picture. But during a July 7 conference call, The VAR Guy stumbled onto a profitable, channel-driven open source company that's making the leap from Europe to North America. Here's the scoop.

First, a little background. Yes, Red Hat is solidly profitable thanks to growing sales of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and JBoss middleware. Rival Novell often generates profitable quarters but the profits are based on Novell's complete software portfolio; the company's SUSE Linux business is not yet consistently profitable, The VAR Guy hears.

Are there any other publicly held, profitable companies built around the open source model?

Bueller?

Bueller?

Private, But Profitable

Now let's shift the discussion to privately held open source companies. Since they're privately held it's often impossible to determine whether they generate profits.

In recent months, The VAR Guy heard privately held xTuple -- an open source ERP software provider that's building a partner channel -- is profitable. And now he's got another example: Germany's Sopera, which has so far declined venture funding because the company is profitable, according to Managing Director Ricco Deutscher.

Sopera positions its software as a service oriented architecture (SOA) platform, and the company's partners include Deutsche Post, Eclipse, Microsoft, Novell and Oracle. Based in Bonn, Germany, Sopera plans to push deeper into the North American market, leveraging channel partners, real soon. (Stay tuned for details on that.)

In the meantime, Sopera's Deutscher reinforces the statement "we're profitable."

Anybody Else?

The VAR Guy is struggling to determine which other companies -- if any -- from the Open Source 50 research report generate profits.

Certainly, businesses like Digium (promoter of the Asterisk open source IP PBX) and Alfresco (the open source alternative to SharePoint) are growing fast. But their privately held status makes it difficult to pinpoint whether they're profitable today ... and/or expect to be profitable soon.

So, The VAR Guy is all ears: Who else in the open source market is solidly profitable?

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