You all probably know about Linux and Open Source by now. Linux and its stable mates, Apache (the world's most popular Web server), FreeBSD (network workhorse server extraordinaire,) StarOffice (free MS Office clone), Perl/PHP/Python/Zope (the Kings of Web-based scripting technologies) and the rest. Tens of thousands of tools, databases, languages and technologies seem to pop up on a daily basis, and are making serious inroads into the server, corporate, post-PC, embedded and appliance markets. All's well I hear you say. But, is it possible to use freely redistributable Open Source software to offer quality solutions to your clients while increasing your revenues as well as your margins?
The answer is a resounding yes! I feel that as our industry matures, opportunities will increasingly arise for the channel in adding value to technology through services and support, and less in traditional areas like box moving. From my reseller and services experience, Open Source is a natural mode for this progression. Since there are no licences and quite often no boxes to onsell, resellers must focus strongly on services, support and training.
So what solutions should you consider selling Open Source technologies for? Here's a few:p File Server for Windows, Windows NT and MacOS-based networks: With SAMBA installed on Linux or FreeBSD, you can provide a robust, quality file server for corporate departments, workgroups or SMEs, which will work out-of the-box' with Windows 3.x, Windows 9x and Windows NT/2000.p Internet Gateway: This is one of the things that Linux was born to do. By installing Linux you will instantly get: a range of Web-focused software including Apache, SQL databases, Sendmail, an NNTP server, a FTP SCP server and much more.p Modem Servers: Linux, in combination with a multi-port serial board from any number of vendors (most support Linux), makes a great low-cost terminal server for your customers who need a remote-access modem pool for their employees or branch offices.p Fax Gateway: If you install Linux and the free Hylafax software on a low-end PC with a modem, you can create a cheap fax server solution for your customers who need network-enabled faxing. The users can simply Print' to the fax server from any Windows application.p Thin client systems: Thin clients are an excellent idea for many corporate situations. Linux makes for an excellent thin-client OS. It's rock-solid, runs on miminal hardware, can be locked down to stop end-user futzing' and can run the Citrix ICA client, the Tarantella client as well as all X-Windows and Telnet-based applications. All with no per-seat licence fees, which makes financial sense when your customer is rolling out hundreds of thin-client workstations. Those NT or CE licences add up quickly.
Okay, but how does a reseller increase margins and revenues? Here's the simple equation; the more your customers spend on licence fees for a software solution, the less their IT budget for your value-add services.
Ask yourself these questions: What margins do you make on software sales? What margins do you make on your consulting and training time? Easy answers, right? Now, how about increasing revenues?
Well, consider the Windows market as fairly saturated. Now consider the fresh Linux market as the Wild West. Untamed, but waiting for those seeking their fortune.
Somewhere on the horizon you can almost hear the call of Gold in them there hills'.
Con Zymaris is the CEO of IT & Internet professional services company Cybersource. Contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org