From an ignorant American perspective, the European market may seem like a more natural fit for open source software than the United States. After all, aren't those countries across the Atlantic populated by liberty-obsessed socialists with a natural affinity for sharing everything? To be sure, this view is hopelessly stereotypical. Nonetheless, Europe did see two major investments by open source vendors this week, in the form of new initiatives from MapR and Zarafa.

To be clear, I hardly think Europeans in general are any more naturally inclined to prefer open source software than we Americans. Still, the fact remains that most of the world's leading proprietary software solutions are the products of U.S.-based companies, such as Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE). Meanwhile, many of the major success stories of the open source world have European or internationalist roots: Think, for example, of Linux founder Linus Torvalds, a native of Finland, or Ubuntu's parent company, Canonical, which now has a presence throughout the world but was founded by a the South African Mark Shuttleworth (who now, incidentally, resides on the semi-autonomous Isle of Man) and maintains its flagship offices in London.

Expanding Open Source in Europe: MapR and Zarafa

If there is some kind of natural connection between open source software and Europe, it was reinforced with the announcement of two significant new endeavors by open source companies in European markets. The first involves Big Data vendor MapR, which has launched a headquarters in London with the goal of aggressively expanding its sales in Europe.

According to MapR founder and CEO John Schroeder, "There has been phenomenal Hadoop demand across Europe for our performance, unprecedented dependability and ease of use advantages. Our European expansion is a response to our strong customer growth and partner momentum."

MapR's investment in the European market promises to increase the exposure of its distribution of the Hadoop open source Big Data infrastructure in that area. It also continues the momentum MapR has established in recent months, which have also seen the company's introduction of a new Big Data verification, M7, as well as channel partnership expansions.

Also this week, Zarafa and other open source partners intensified their battle against Microsoft's proprietary groupware solutions within the European market by releasing an open source alternative to Microsoft Small Business Server. By integrating Zarafa's groupware suite, along with agorum's document management system and the SEP data-backup platform, into Univention Corporate Server, these four companies have partnered to offer a comprehensive alternative to Microsoft's product.

For now, this open source business server platform--which is described in detail (and in German) here--is available only in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Still, it's a sign of the increasing challenges that proprietary vendors face in European markets, and potentially elsewhere as well in the future.

By and large, the battle between open source and proprietary vendors for Europe is not as important as the struggle for dominance in developing markets, which are growing at a much faster rate and where long-entrenched proprietary giants don't enjoy a strong foothold. But Europe is nonetheless an area on which open source vendors are setting their sites in the hope of gaining new market share. And with lower-cost alternatives to popular proprietary platforms, they may well succeed.