Open season for open source software in region

Open source software developers and distributors have always had their work cut out in the Middle East and it's only over the last couple of years that specialists in this field have invested in ramping up their business.

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By  Administrator Published  November 5, 2008

Open source software developers and distributors have always had their work cut out in the Middle East and it's only over the last couple of years that specialists in this field have invested in ramping up their business. Channel Middle East talks to some of the big names in the business and asks why the channel should care about open source?

Only six of the world's 268 governmental open source initiatives originated in the Middle East, which means you are a little bit behind here."

That was the rather damning verdict of open source adoption that Scott McNealy, chairman and co-founder of Sun Microsystems, gave at a recent keynote speech in the UAE.

And Sun should know, because as McNealy also claimed, the vendor is the biggest benefactor of open source software having donated more source code to the open community than any other business.

So, the question of whether open source adoption is as high in the Middle East as it could be, is really null and void. The much more pertinent question to ask is, what should the level of adoption be?

And what should systems integrators and distributors that work with open code do to ensure they drive the adoption rate upwards? Or even, is it in their interests to do so?

Those who are heavily invested in the success of open source here, such as Red Hat or its master distribution partner Opennet, are confident that the market will start migrating in their direction. They could be right.

The exact implications of the global financial crisis on the Middle East might be unknown, but it is certain that 2009 is unlikely to be a year of carefree spending. Business leaders will be looking to tighten belts.

Thus, one advantage that advocates of open source are keen to point out is the relatively low cost of ownership that open source promises its users. This is, of course, a value the channel can manipulate as part of the sales process, whether into greater margins or to soften the blow that heavy costs can inflict on the end-user.

The value proposition of open source is very strong as channel players can look to develop their own unique solutions and offer their skills at a premium.

Also, it must be noted that as Linux adoption in the region is low - and the same can be said for the number of skilled technicians - the value in terms of trained staff and the opportunity to garner extra revenue from knowledge transfer is high.

This also means that systems integrators can develop continued revenue from service contracts as it seems only the very largest enterprises are likely to invest in training their own staff on Linux.

Then there is the potential to provide managed services, an option that enterprise CIOs might well begin considering if they are confronted with budget cuts.

Interestingly, there are also those that suggest open source has a moral place in the market, pointing out that it is a prime opportunity to develop local intellectual property.

Market experts claim there is a worrying lack of intellectual capital emanating from this region - a concern that could be quelled as systems integrators go about developing their own solutions around the likes of Red Hat's operating system or add-ons to Oracle's E-Business Suite.

So, with all of this, and McNealy's comments in mind, it may be the case that open source is the future software choice for SIs and ISVs targeting the region's SME community.

Here is what some of the most influential companies adorning the Middle East open source landscape have to say on the matter.

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