Zenoss: Open Source Meets Managed Services (Again)I'm hearing a familiar trend in the managed services market: MSPs seem to be embracing more and more open source tools. The latest example involves Zenoss, a commercial open source company that specializes in applications, systems and network monitoring.

I am not suggesting that open source will dominate the managed services sector. But a growing number of service providers are deploying open source administration tools from Zenoss, Groundwork Open Source and Untangle. Here's why.

Different Cars for Different Drivers

Open source tools like Zenoss come in two flavors: A free version (consider it the "Chevy") and a paid, subscription-based version (consider it the "Cadillac"), notes Mark Hinkle, VP of community at Zenoss. While the "Chevy"version is fully funtional, the "Cadillac" version includes features for larger service providers managing tens of thousands of devices, notes Hinkle.

Zenoss adopters include:
In recent months, Zenoss and GroundWork both claim to have disrupted traditional IT management tools like OpenView, CA Unicenter, IBM Tivoli and BMC. GroundWork, in particular, has been attacking OpenView on multiple fronts.

Meanwhile, some top MSPs -- including DirectPointe -- have built businesses on top of open source. In fac, DirectPointe is now spinning off a new, open-source focused business to help further automate small businesses.

Six Reasons for Open Source

What's driving open source's momentum with managed service providers? Here are six possible answers:
  1. Fast Starts: MSPs can download code for free can get started instantly without signing complex licensing agreements
  2. Code Access: MSPs can get under the hood of open source and customize code to meet specific client needs
  3. Software as a Service: More and more open source tools are available through a SaaS model, further accelerating deployments
  4. Fast Answers: Many open source companies have strong online communities, where volunteers and hackers (the good kind...) are eager to answer user questions
  5. Linux: Now firmly established in data centers and network operation centers, Linux has paved the way for MSPs to push forward with open source applications and management tools
  6. The Economy: During bad economic times, MSPs are more inclined to aggressively search the market for niche solutions that they may have overlooked during boom times.
Again, I'm not suggesting open source will dominate the MSP market anytime soon. I suspect fewer than 5 percent of MSPs use open source remote management tools. But I bet that figure grows 50 percent annually for the next three to five years, taking open source market share among to 7.5% of MSPs in 2009, roughly 11% in 2010 and roughly 16% in 2011.

Of course, those are guestimates. Even if you think they're too optimistic there's no denying open source's growing influence in the MSP industry.

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