This blog tends to concentrate on two broad aspects of open source: the issues that affect enterprise users, and the companies based around creating free software. But this misses out a crucial player, that of the “channel”, also known by the equally unhelpful name of “value-added resellers”, or VARs.
These are also called “system integrators”, which defines rather better their role of taking various kinds of software from the main software suppliers, and hammering them into a solution that end users can actually use. The point is, the channel/VARs/system integrators play an absolutely key role in getting software accepted by companies, since they effectively “gate” its flow into much of the business world.
Against that background, the following announcement is both important and encouraging:
Red Hat, Inc., the world's leading provider of open source solutions, together with SYNNEX Corporation, a leading business process services company, today announced the launch of the Open Source Channel Alliance. Based on a consortium of open source Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) led by Red Hat, the Open Source Channel Alliance is aimed at delivering the value of open source technologies to a large base of Value Added Resellers (VARs) and System Integrators through an expanded partnership with SYNNEX. SYNNEX has signed agreements with the nine founding ISV members to distribute a variety of open source ISV applications in addition to Red Hat Enterprise Linux and JBoss Enterprise Middleware.
Now, I've never heard of the distributor SYNNEX (don't these people know how to turn off the caps lock?), but they claim to have 15,000 resellers in their US network - this Alliance is operational only there, at least currently.
As the press release says:
SYNNEX' commitment and investment in open source solutions through the establishment of the alliance is a major validation point for open source. The series of partnerships map out a new opportunity for SYNNEX. As the first distributor to partner with an entire group of open source ISVs, SYNNEX can offer its resellers end-to-end solutions, utilizing the advantages of an open source platform.
Those open source “ISVs” (independent software vendors – companies to you and me) are as follows:
Alfresco, EnterpriseDB, Ingres, Jaspersoft, Likewise, Pentaho, Zmanda, Zenoss and Zimbra. Red Hat has identified this group of companies as providers of enterprise-ready, open source applications and solutions that are supported on Red Hat Enterprise Linux and JBoss Enterprise Middleware
This makes clear the fact that Red Hat aims to be the glue that holds these integrated systems together. And it's no surprise that Red Hat should be the first to “enter the channel” in this way; as I've noted before, Red Hat is currently the most business-savvy of the GNU/Linux distros out there, and its expansion into new markets through the creation of the Open Source Channel Alliance was probably inevitable.
But if it's good for Red Hat, it's also good for free software, since the latter's use in small- and medium- sized companies is likely to rise. Moreover, the tie-up with “SYNNEX” means that open source has just gained a marketing army of 15,000 resellers who will go out and sing its virtues to their customers. Now that's what I call channeling the power.
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