July 11, 2008

OpenLogic pushes partnerships on open source support

Author: Jack M. Germain

OpenLogic Inc., a provider of enterprise open source software, wants other open source software developers to shake hands over a partnership program that will give it control over an alliance of support services for other vendors' products.

OpenLogic, which already supports 400 open source packages in its certified library, announced its new vendor partnership program on July 8. The partnership program is designed to let commercial open source software vendors share in the revenue OpenLogic receives from its customers for providing support for the commercial software. EnterpriseDB, which sells a relational database based on PostgreSQL, and JasperSoft, which develops an open source business intelligence platform, are among the first to share in the revenue-sharing venture.

"This is targeting commercial open source products. It expands our existing ad hoc support," says Kim Weins, senior vice president of marketing for OpenLogic.

OpenLogic has always provided support but wants to expand its pool of resources to help resolve more software problems, she says. "Only about 20 of the 400 packages [in our library] have commercial backings. We want to work with open source vendors when there is commercial activity."

This program enables OpenLogic to make support available for all packages in its library under one roof. Eventually, as partnerships grow, any package in the library will have support from OpenLogic. Right now, many of those packages are supported only by the project's community forums.

Under the terms of this new partnership program, commercial partners will provide backstop support for their projects, and OpenLogic will resell its partners' enterprise support offerings. The vendor shares the subscription fees that OpenLogic collects through its enrolled customers. OpenLogic hopes the revenue issue will balance out with the potential of additional commercial customers attracted from library downloaders.

How it works

Under the program, OpenLogic customers do not pay a per-instance support charge. Nor do vendors pay for this support. Instead, customers of vendor partners get one phone number to call for any support needed. Customers of participating vendors pay OpenLogic a subscription fee for access to the open source software library and choose what packages they want included in the support agreement.

Customers also select the time interval of the support for which they subscribe. For instance, customers may choose to have support available during business hours as opposed to around the clock for a set number of days per week.

"Ultimately, the customers pay based on an a la carte Chinese menu approach," says Weins.

Smoothing ruffled edges

Some in the open source community have been skeptical of the alternative support that OpenLogic provides for major open source projects, according to Weins. The company hopes the partner program will quell the negativity.

Partners will be able to provide supplemental support for their projects to OpenLogic customers. In addition, OpenLogic will resell its partners' enterprise support offerings, helping to expand partner channels.

OpenLogic officials concede that the support partnership they created could be viewed as toe-stepping by some open source communities and commercial vendors. But efforts are ongoing to extend partnerships to minimize these potential slights.

"Our desire is to partner. This could be viewed as competitive so we are talking to vendors to formulate agreements," says Weins.

Users gain

Ultimately, the users of the expanded support services will benefit the most, she says. They may be using from dozens to hundreds of open source products from separate sources. "Most of [the products] have no commercial support available. This new support option lets users aggregate support, and we can bring new revenue to vendors."

Support for open source software falls into a wide array of needs, according to Weins. Many open source users have multiple packages installed. Some of them are commercial. Others are community supported only. The level of community-based support varies with the package as well. Sometimes support issues are complicated with a mix of home-brewed applications.

"So customers may have a sense of the problems they are experiencing, but they don't know how to fix them. We give them one vendor who can touch all aspects of all the applications being used," Weins says.


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