Williams was also looking for gateway appliance software to provide content filtering, antispam, antivirus and other protective services for clients' networks. Among the options were products from open source network gateway vendor Untangle.
"[With] some of these [major proprietary] vendors, you can't even get in the door for half or even one-tenth of the cost" of products from Untangle, he said. "That's an issue for the small business," which wants the same security features as large enterprises but can't afford them.
For his customers - even the small ones - open source virtualisation is also becoming an important option, Williams said. It's not that small businesses want virtualisation for added computing capabilities. Instead, they can use it for disaster recovery and redundancy by creating duplicate images of existing servers and workstations and maintaining them in the event of a sytem crash. An open source application can cost less and take up a smaller IT footprint compared to larger corporate-sized applications from major virtualisation vendors.
"I don't necessarily need these huge things or even the whole management infrastructure surrounding it," he said.
Aliota Sharma, the CEO of Technetra , an IT consulting company in California, wanted an open source backup application for her company. Technetra is now evaluating one product from Zmanda to replace other open source tools. "Zmanda is a pretty unique product because it is an open source product, which gives us great flexibility," she said. "We're interested in having a Linux-based solution because our company runs on Linux."
Dan Kusnetzky, principal analyst with the Kusnetzky Group LLC in Florida, said the varied needs of Linux and open source users follow a trend of recent years.
"At least [with] the corporate executives that I've been speaking with, ...Linux is part of every discussion," Kusnetzky said. "That was exactly the trend that I expected. It took a combination of things to get here. The technology had to mature and the features and functions that people needed had to become a part of the environment."
Open source in the enterprise "needed to have enough success stories" so executives and IT leaders could see that others were enthusiastically using it and then feel comfortable with the technology, Kusnetzky said. "IT executives are very risk-averse. They want to keep things in control and they want to cut costs. So they have a tendency to add new things in the environment [such as Linux and open source] very carefully. Because once its there, it's going to be there forever."