June 3, 2005

Microsoft partner points out FOSS opportunity

Author: Robin "roblimo" Miller

According to a survey
released June 1
by Microsoft Certified Partner Port80 Software, 53.8% of all
Fortune 1000 company Web sites are powered by Windows and Microsoft's IIS servers, while only 21.2% of these giant companies use Apache and other open source software to run their corporate Web presences. This means these companies offer a
huge potential market for FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) vendors and service providers.

Port80 should be commended for reminding us that FOSS is not yet dominant; that there are plenty of companies, including some of the world's largest ones that still haven't converted from expensive,
proprietary server operating systems and applications to low-cost, reliable FOSS solutions.

Even better, Port80 gives aggressive FOSS marketers a prospect list, not just raw statistics. Go to its Web
Servers survey page
, scroll to the bottom, and you see an alphabetical list of the world's biggest companies. Click on any company
name and a window will open that shows what Web server that company uses. The ones running Windows and IIS are obviously the best prospects. Go get 'em!

Port80 supplies marketing material, too

At the bottom of the pop-up window used to display a company's Web server, there's an ad for a Port80 product called ServerMask
that contains this blurb:

Why let anyone find out you're running a Microsoft IIS server? Don't tempt potential hackers!

If this isn't a tipoff that smart companies should switch from IIS to something more secure -- Apache, for example -- I don't know what is.

Port80 also sells many (proprietary) software products -- see this list -- whose main purpose is to add features to IIS that Apache Server already includes for free.

A long and winding marketing road

Obviously, Fortune 1000 companies aren't under the same cost-cutting and efficiency pressures as smaller companies, so they may not be in a big
hurry to improve their Web-serving efficiency and security or cut their Web-oriented costs by switching to FOSS. But sooner or later even the
most hidebound accountants and shareholders are bound to ask why BigCorp is using expensive proprietary software instead of the lower-cost
alternatives a growing number of their smaller, more nimble competitors have adopted. A smart FOSS marketer will keep his or her name in front
of the CIOs and IT managers at Windows-using Fortune 1000 companies so that when the time is ripe, wham! Close that deal!

I'm making that sale sound easier than it is in real life. Typically, the bigger the company, the slower it moves. Convincing a behemoth
corporation to use FOSS, even just on its Web servers, may take years of effort, not to mention countless presentations to executives in many
departments.

As an example of just how slow some of these companies are when it comes to IT changes, the Port80 survey shows 10.8% of respondents still using the old Netscape Web server.

But even though the sales track may be long and tedious, selling LAMP-based Web services to one of the world's largest corporations can give a significant bottom-line boost to a vendor who pulls it off, even if that vendor is a Fortune 1000 corporation itself, like HP or IBM.

(For smaller vendors and consultants, even a minuscule taste of a small slice of a Fortune 1000 company's Web server pie can be a huge financial
coup -- which is no doubt why so many software vendors of both the proprietary and FOSS species spend so much time romancing these potentially gargantuan clients.)

Even a short-stack order could be filling

So far we've concentrated on the Web server section of Port80's survey. Another page details "the Top
1000 Corporations' Application Servers and Scripting Platforms
."

Here we see a graph that shows 43.6% using Microsoft ASP.NET or ASP, 12.2% using various Java-based platforms, a mere 5.2% using PHP, and
even smaller percentages running ColdFusion, Perl, or Python.

Once again, while Port80 sees Microsoft as a "winner," you can just as easily interpret these results as a marketing opportunity for
low-cost, flexible scripting options.

Yes, I know some companies claim
Windows and proprietary software beat GNU/Linux and that silly FOSS stuff to death in every way.

But there are plenty of young, aggressive IT managers in Windows-using Fortune 1000 companies who do their own cost, reliability, and security
studies -- and are always on the lookout for better/faster/cheaper software tools.

These men and women are great prospects for FOSS conversion. Give them honest facts and figures, "hands on" demos in their own shops,
work with their people to overcome training and unfamiliarity issues, and eventually enough of them will come around to put smiles on the
faces of a whole lot of FOSS-based vendors and consultants.

Click Here!