First, let's explore what went wrong. Synnex and Red Hat launched the Open Source Channel Alliance amid much fanfare in 2009. But the alliance was surprisingly silent in 2010, and completely silent so far in 2011. Similarly, Tech Data launched the Open Tech initiative in late 2009. That effort also has gone mostly silent.
Among the challenges facing open source in the IT channel:
- The market for open source business applications is too fragmented, with multiple small players competing in email, CRM, ERP and so on.
- Small open source companies lacked the time, financial resources and focus to build channel pipelines with distributors.
- The cloud came along, shifting a lot of attention from on-premise open source to cloud-based everything.
Signs of HopeStill, open source has enjoyed anecdotal success in the channel.
- Red Hat, on track to become a $1 billion company this year, generates roughly 50 to 60 percent of its annual revenues through channel partners.
- Attachmate CEO Jeff Hawn assures The VAR Guy that Novell's SUSE Linux business will remain channel-centric.
- Digium's success with Asterisk partners is well-documented.
- Open-Xchange, the open source email firm, has successfully partnered up with SaaS providers.
- SugarCRM partners are profiting in the cloud, according to CEO Larry Augustin.
- Jaspersoft has attracted new funding from Red Hat, SAP and Quest Software.
- And Pentaho now hosts annual partner summits.
In theory, open source companies could have an easier time plugging into the new distributor cloud model rather than the old shrink-wrap model.
The VAR Guy will be watching to see if open source finally catches fire in the channel.