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The Open Source Opportunity

By Snigdha Karjatkar on May 15, 2009

Just when partners and vendors are complaining of slowdown affecting their revenues and profits, those dealing with open source software have a different story to share. They are all gung-ho about it as the customers are considering open source seriously. Just like there is silver lining to the dark cloud, those dealing with open source are seeing an opportunity in this time of slowdown to aggressively promote open source solutions (OSS), which fits the need of this hour brilliantly, with its low cost and high performance.

Up in the Downturn

India has always been on par with the rest of the world as far as the utility of the open source technology is concerned in the mainstream. Indian markets have always been exploring and using it actively. Sandeep Menon, Country Manager, Novell India, believes, “Linux business has remained untouched substantially from the wrath of the slowdown. It would not be an overstatement if we say it has in fact benefited by the downturn.”

Explaining the reason behind the sudden awareness and liking for the emerging open source solutions, Menon says, “Earlier, CIOs had the luxury of being risk-averse. It was often the comfort zone with the vendor agreements that made them not too keen on taking a different route. But times have changed and with times, things have changed. The budget constraint has made them reconsider their approach towards the concept of open source solutions. CIOs are now giving a patient hearing to our solutions and are convinced that it is not merely cost-effective but it also satiates their requirements.”

Substantiating the claim, Asheesh Raina, Principal Research Analyst at Gartner, points out “Yes, definitely the slowdown has come across as an opportunity for the open source, at least for a short term. There is lot of opportunity for using open source solutions, predominantly in the small and medium-sized organizations. Right from the operating systems to matured applications like servers or infrastructure-level software, there is plenty to adopt onto.”

“Yes, the economic slowdown is forcing IT managers to think out of the box and come out with alternative solutions. Open source solutions offer a compelling value proposition. Today, there is an OSS technology for practically every software category such as enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, business intelligence, middleware, database, and business process management. Red Hat itself offers an alternative for high availability and load balancing, virtualization, clustered file system, middleware, security, and management software requirements. Think of the money the enterprises can save if they decide to go in for an open source option. And to add to it, in no less measure is savings on anti-virus software,” says Tirthankar Mitra, Head – Channel SI & OEM Business, INDIA & SAARC, Red Hat.

Its not just vendors and research analysts, but even the solution providers too share the same story. Delhi-based Varad Gupta of Keen and Able believes that the market has evolved from its nascent stage. Narrating his experience, Gupta shares, “We indeed are flooded with large amount of inquiries. Earlier, it was we who would approach customers but today we see a reverse trend. It is the customer who is seeking out to us. There is substantial number of customers seriously weighing the options of adopting open source.”

He recollects, “I remember the time when we used to approach the customers and explain the flexibility that open source offers to them. It was very difficult to convince the customers that it is to their benefit that one can customize according to their needs. Moreover, customers were worried who would provide support for the same.”
Even today the cost is the primary motivating factor for people to adopt open source. He says, “Cost has always been the factor that was drawing people to open source solutions. But things are looking positive nowand, today, in the decision making, cost is still the predominant factor but at the same time features and flexibility are equally acknowledged.”

With the downturn, what has remarkably changed is the approach and perception towards open source. People are spending time to listen to open source. They have been actively participating in the seminars and discussions on open source, which was earlier not so frequent.
“Earlier, it was a straight no- no, but now people are willing to listen. With the current market pressures, adoption is growing for sure,” says Gupta. He further adds, “Adoption on the government side has made a positive impact on the market. With major portals running on open source components it is easy to convince the customer.”

Shubham Nagar, CEO, Infoaxon, also shares a similar and recent experience. He says, “Sometime ago, we had implemented a BI solution with a customer on pilot basis but thereafter it went cold. But couple of days ago, the customer came back to us. They are now interested in implementing open source in a completely different domain and straight away want to close the deal.”

According to Nagar of Infoaxon, a lot of these customers have gone through the initial learning curve in the earlier interaction and now with the downturn, they are coming back with specific requirements.

Even he cannot stop echoing the same sentiment, which Gupta of Keen and Able shared earlier. He says, “We are also experiencing that customers are very warm and at least give us a patient hearing which earlier was impossible.”

Few partners also believe that people have started looking at open source as a bankable alternative. According to partners and analysts, open source solutions have become mature enough to map the 90 percent functionality of other platforms at almost 10 percent of the cost and the training for the migration is not much.
Kolkata-based Aman Gopal of MASS has a slightly different take on the surge in the demand. He says, “I don’t feel it is out of the blue that things have changed. We have seen the demand for open source steadily growing over the last couple of years. But yes, we are experiencing a sudden rise in inquiries in the last quarter.”

One of the important reasons that IT heads are pushing their internal users to migrate to open source platforms is to cut down the cost of renewing licenses that the organizations are incurring. Open source has a simple and single license priced at a reasonable cost. Partners advocate that open source offers far more secure and manageable environment, which people are realizing and moving towards it.

Gopal adds, “Ultimately, the combination of slowdown, the inability to spend more on the ever-upgrading license versions and the awareness about the open source that offers latest technology is driving the growth for the open source solutions.”


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