Linus Torvalds, the founder of Linux, explained the appeal of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) best when he declared, "Software is like sex: It's better when it's free." Many enterprises today, the strong majority of which use FOSS, apparently agree. But as a new survey out today reveals, those organizations would also love better enterprise-grade support for FOSS solutions. Is the channel ready to deliver?

The survey was commissioned by Univa, which develops automation and management tools for data centers. The company is thus not a completely neutral player when it comes to managing demand for better support services for open source platforms (although the survey itself was conducted by an independent organization).

Still, the poll, which collected information from 128 companies during the third week in March, suggested some interesting facts about FOSS in the business world today. Of particular note:

  • 76 percent of the companies are using open source software in some capacity.
  • 75 percent said they experience issues with it.
  • 64 percent expressed a willingness to pay for enterprise-level support for FOSS solutions if it would eliminate the problems they have experienced.

Some of the specific areas where the survey respondents expressed dissatisfaction with their current open source deployments include software stability problems, bug reporting troubles and unpredictable product lifecycles. These are all classic criticisms of FOSS, and there is a limit to the extent to which third-party solutions can address them without being able to change the behavior of independent open source projects.

Yet several of the other problems with FOSS that the respondents cited are a VAR's dream, since they represent places where third-party vendors can very feasibly add recognizable value to FOSS solutions. These include improving ease-of-use, providing extra functionality and integrating FOSS into broader solutions.

The message for the channel, then, seems clear: Open source is a crucial part of the operations of most enterprises today, yet those enterprises are willing to pay to make their FOSS experience smoother. And the opportunities for VARs to do so are rich, as long as they are able to home in on the specific areas where organizations demand better service.