Open Source: Prime time for SMBs
With IT biggies throwing their weight behind Linux– and a host of smaller
players creating products and providing support services for this OS–SMBs
may have found just what they were hankering after, says Srikanth R P
||Channels play a crucial role in providing services
and support, and taking customers through the entire process of Linux adoption
and implementation, says Javed Tapia
“For a long time, there were only three options if you wanted to buy
software–pay a lot of money for the application, indulge in piracy or
non-consumption. Now, open source software offers a fourth option: of affordable
solutions,” says Rajesh Jain, CEO of Netcore Solutions. Jain’s quote
is significant when you consider the typical challenges that small and medium-sized
businesses (SMBs) face.
Though the basic needs of an SMB are not too different from those of a large
enterprise, affordability of solutions has always been a big issue. Indeed,
it’s even prompted some firms to go in for pirated software, against their
better judgment. Additionally, SMBs look at investing in IT solutions that can
be managed with minimal staff to compensate for lack of resources, time, capital
and management expertise.
Although Linux has been around for a while, it was largely restricted to the
role of a mail server. However, over the past two years its fortunes have changed.
Not only have big players such as IBM, HP and Novell rallied around the OS,
smaller players too are attracted by the opportunity to be had in bundling Linux-based
products and selling said bundles to small and medium enterprises.
It’s a face-off
On the server front, there are two key players in India – old-timer Red
Hat India and a rejuvenated Novell with SuSE Linux. Both are bullish about selling
Linux to Indian SMBs.
Says Ashit Panjwani, national manager, Alliance and Marketing, Onward Novell
Software, “Linux and the entire open source model are best suited for
SMBs as with Linux, the total cost of setting up the network infrastructure
is much lower than with other networking solutions. There are a number of affordable
– even free – messaging solutions that let SMBs communicate with
their internal and external counterparts. MySQL can be effectively used as a
database for business applications. Similarly, Linux-based firewalls can be
deployed for strengthening the security of the organisational network.”
Novell claims that its product – SuSE Standard Server 8.0 – meets
all the requirements of the SMB segment. The product can be deployed as an e-mail
server, file and print server, or as an application server.
While Red Hat does not have a specific version of its software that is aimed
at SMBs, its Enterprise Linux ES is quite popular with this segment. Says Javed
Tapia, director, Red Hat India, “SMBs typically use Red Hat products to
run edge-of-network applications such as mail, HTTP, file and print, and databases.”
IBM is building many of its product offerings around Linux; Big Blue has rolled
out Linux versions of most of its major products.
Says Jyothi Satyanathan, “We’re seeing a strong
shift by SMBs towards Linux-based servers. In some sectors, Linux has become
a standard. In niche segments such as digital content creation and the EDA industry,
there’s a strong tilt towards Linux.”
||SMBs are shifting towards Linux-based servers. This
is more apparent in niche segments such as digital content creation and
the EDA industry, says Jyothi Satyanathan
Even Linux’s biggest stumbling block – ‘lack
of support’ – is not a serious issue anymore as nearly every player
in the Linux space is trying hard to ensure a dedicated support infrastructure.
For example, last year Red Hat expanded its distribution network from 25 channel
partners to over 50 spanning 19 cities across India. This year, it’s planning
to double its channel partner base. The support of channel partners is crucial
as Linux has to overcome its reputation of being an OS for geeks.
Says Tapia, “Channels play a crucial role when it comes to addressing
the needs of the SMB segment. They do the handholding, provide services and
support, and take customers through the entire process of Linux adoption and
Similarly, Novell is conducting education programs for channel partners to help
them drive the adoption of Linux among SMBs. It is also pushing hard to make
Linux Certified Engineers out of its base of around 15,000 Novell Certified
Engineers in India. The company is looking at partnering with Indian ISVs to
help them port their applications on to Linux.
||Open source technologies such as Linux and OpenOffice.org
have opened up a set of possibilities that didn’t exist before, says
The Linux movement is not confined to global players such
as Red Hat and Novell. Even Indian companies have found a substantial business
opportunity in Linux. While most provide support services, some companies like
Netcore Solutions have built product suites – at prices that are quite
low. Says Rajesh Jain, CEO, Netcore Solutions, “The needs of SMBs are
similar to those of enterprise users, except that SMBs cannot pay for customisation
or afford high-end solutions. So they need solutions that are integrated and
comprehensive, but at lower price points.” Netcore is offering SMBs a
Linux server called ‘Pragatee’. The product is bundled with all
the applications an SMB should need. Features like messaging, file servers,
print servers, database servers, desktop computing, accounting, CRM, knowledge
management and security – all this starts at as little as Rs 7,500.
||SMBs need solutions that are integrated and comprehensive,
but at lower price points, says Rajesh Jain
A single login across multiple packages and remote manageability are some of
the features of Netcore’s software. The company has also developed separate
products for SMBs for messaging and security, desktop computing, information
management and collaboration, and a collection of key business applications
that include accounting and CRM.
Linux also offers a big opportunity for local system integrators, who are trying
to promote Linux-based solutions among SMBs. For example, Lansmart Technologies,
a Mumbai-based network system integrator, derives around 75 percent of its revenues
by providing Linux-based training and services.
Says Ryan Lemos, head, Enterprise Networking Solutions Division, Lansmart Technologies,
“The myth that Linux is hard and expensive to maintain [has been shattered].
SMBs have been pleasantly surprised to discover that their Linux servers and
desktops can be managed and maintained in-house without effort. Some of the
hottest selling products based on Linux have been Sendmail/PostFix mail servers,
Samba servers, Squid proxy server, Apache web server and netfilter/iptables
firewall solutions. We’ve also implemented database servers using MySQL
with PHP at the front end.”
Edging out Windows
While SMBs won’t dump their Windows-based tools in a mad rush to migrate
to Linux, the shift towards Linux – and other open source technologies
– is unmistakable As Panjwani of Onward Novell says, “In a traditionally
price-conscious market, it comes as no surprise that open source technologies
like Linux and OpenOffice.org have opened up a set of possibilities that didn’t
While there are still a few concerns about security and support, as more vendors
and system integrators jump on to the Linux bandwagon, SMBs could finally get
their hands on the products they have always needed.
|Red Hat Enterprise Linux ES
||Edge-of-network applications such as file, print, mail and Web servers.
||Rs 17,500 to Rs 39,950 depending on the level of support
|SuSE Standard Server v8.0
||Novell SuSE Linux
||Web (intranet and Internet), e-mail, file and print and application server.
|HP will support JBoss and MySQL on its servers. Under
the agreement with MySQL, the company responsible for the most popular open-source
database software program, and JBoss, a Java-based application server software
company, HP will certify and support these applications on HP’s servers
using Intel-compatible processors. To begin with, HP will support JBoss
and MySQL on its Proliant servers using four processors per box as well
as its four-way Itanium 2 Integrity servers. By the end of the year, HP
will certify and support JBoss and MySQL on 16-way Integrity servers. HP
expects that it will be successful with the JBoss and MySQL agreements in
the entry-level segment.
||Windows emulation tool
||Print and graphics. The OSS alternative to Adobe Photoshop
||A popular mail server
||The world's most popular Web server