Editorial: Opening doors and open source

As one door closes, another one opens for smaller independent resellers. It will be very interesting to see how the new buying group announced by IT Asset Care progresses (see page 1 of ARN, November 15, 2006 edition).

On paper, it looks like a great idea. Small, regional resellers get access to the Ingram Micro product list and the distributor gets lots of ad hoc business without the associated costs of managing insignificant accounts. Meanwhile, the ITAC Options buying group builds a large pool of reseller customers and everybody wins. Given that the buying group has been created to pick up the pieces following the reseller review conducted by Ingram earlier this year, its relative success or otherwise is likely to tell us a lot about the quality of accounts the distributor decided to close. ITAC might also target accounts closed during a similar review conducted by Synnex. But if the distributors are to be believed (and they obviously have a better idea than anybody else) these thousands of accounts are made up largely of businesses that are no longer trading, end-users and very small resellers that bought stock infrequently. This hardly seems an attractive audience for a buying group.

Having said that, there are some buying groups that have made the model work very effectively including Leading Edge. In an industry where it is ever more apparent that size does matter, there are certainly plenty of smaller dealers out there that will find the concept an appealing one. The biggest challenge for would-be organisers is attracting them in large enough numbers to make it a worthwhile proposition. For ITAC, ancillary services look like they could be a key differentiator. Smaller dealers are often consumed by the daily operation of their businesses and anything that frees them up to concentrate on that will be welcomed, particularly if it saves them a few bucks in the process. Resellers will vote with their wallets.

In other news, these are interesting times for the open source movement following the announcement that Microsoft is the latest heavyweight software vendor to offer support (see page 1). With Oracle now behind Red Hat Linux, Microsoft's decision to back Suse Linux has given open source a real shot of enterprise credibility. But at what price? For many diehard advocates of open source, particularly among the development community, Oracle and Microsoft gate-crashing the party will not be welcomed. There will undoubtedly be some who believe the rubber stamps being wielded by Steve Ballmer and Larry Ellison are a threat to the very essence of what open source stands for.

Some local integrators, however, have been supportive of the Microsoft news. For them, it validates their offerings to a vast install base that has previously steered clear of open source to date largely due to fear of the unknown. There are plenty of channel players out there who have also side-stepped the open source question. But with so many major vendors having now shown varying levels of support for the technology, it is time to reconsider and find a way to make it an option. Open source is unlikely to be suitable for everybody anytime soon, but why not give customers the choice?