Hawking Open Source in Tough Times

The ongoing economic meltdown has presented a unique strategic opportunity to vendors of open source software.

Slashed budgets and riffed staffs are forcing enterprise users of proprietary software business solutions to rethink the suitability of open source replacement products.

Many firms — both large and small — are discovering that the misconception that “free” means “cheap” is causing them to overspend on proprietary software. At the same time, some open source vendors are taking the chance to experiment with new marketing approaches. The goal is to deliver a wider message that buying open source products and services at a lower price than their proprietary-code competitors is serious business.

“Historically, there is increased level of activity around open source during challenging times, and we expect this trend to continue. The challenge is to convert this higher level of interest to increased adoption and commercial value for the open source ecosystem,” Gopi Ganapathy, president and CEO of Essentia and the Open Solutions Alliance (OSA) community development chair, told LinuxInsider.

Open source marketing strategies, he explained, are wrapping around a variety of discrete trends, such as on-demand/software-as-a-service models with virtualization/cloud computing, mobile/location-based services, and Web 2.0/collaboration to various degrees of success. These trends reflect global forces that will drive a new economy based on valuing efficiency, productivity and cost-effectiveness across the board.

Buying Patterns Changing

One of the biggest adjustments being made to marketing efforts lies in responding to how businesses approach software migration from proprietary products. Companies are more willing to download open source software and try it out for free without ever engaging any paid support.

So the trick is to see how far along new adopters can get without having to open the wallet. The sales aspect kicks in when customers reach the point where they need support for mission-critical use, such as consulting and training.

For open source software firm Progress Software, that means going after non-users. The company’s FUSE product provides open source enterprise service bus (ESB) for service-oriented architecture (SOA) initiatives and provides data infrastructure software.

“We are adapting from our traditional marketing to people who already know about open source. Now we also spend marketing funds to attract attention from people who don’t know about it. We are using our Web site to add more information on things like how to get started with open source. We’re doing more marketing programs and more content to offer through those programs,” Debbie Moynihan, director of the FUSE Community for Progress Software, told LinuxInsider

Reaching Out

Providing more free information to hook new open source users is part of the new marketing plan at Ingres as well. Ingres provides appliances that run on the Ingres Open Source Database, powered by the technology of an Ingres partner, Alfresco. Alfresco developed the Open Source Enterprise Content Management System.

“One of the key things we’ve done with this economy is our Web site and outreach program. We offer white papers to explain the open platform. We’ve been participants in panels and trade shows to push this concept,” Deb Woods, vice president of product management for Ingres, told LinuxInsider.

One way Ingres is reaching out to new customers is by participating in virtual trade shows, where the company can hawk its open source wares at a booth online. This puts their product message in front of companies that do not spend money to attend a physical show.

Compelling Compromise

As Ned Lilly sees it, any IT consumer that is not looking at open source needs to be looking for a new job. Lilly is president and CEO of xTuple. His company provides the Postbooks Projects Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.

“We are seeing more enterprises that are looking for lower-cost alternatives to high-priced commercial products they currently use. A completely free ERP has to be compelling. We see this a lot with startups,” Lilly told LinuxInsider.

Part of xTuple’s marketing strategy is to provide a dual product line that draws support for high-end features. The fully featured community-backed software has over 200,000 downloads, he noted. Many of those users rely on forums and bug trackers. Others come back for support later on.

“We have a functional distinction between the core open source product and the functionality in the commercial product. These tend to be bigger company features that not all small businesses need. We avoid being too cute with annoying reminders on getting support,” he explained.

Making IT Fit

Ingres tweaks its marketing strategy to make sure that open source fits what the potential new customer is doing. Woods calls it developing the new economics of IT.

“We’re doing a lot of work with the JBoss application server and Red Hat. This is how we are trying to move people forward with open platform solutions,” Woods explained.

Part of that strategy is advising potential customers to see if they have the right architecture deployed. Many companies have deployed architecture that locks them in for future decisions around continued use of proprietary software.

Teaming Up

No longer is the sales pitch a take-it-or-leave-it option, with the “it” being open source migration. Rather than throwing out existing products, Ingres preaches the concept of phasing in or integrating open source. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer for every potential customer.

“You can do both approaches. You also can look at porting existing applications into open structure. We are helping customers port their older apps over to Ingres. You can put new applications on the open framework or port older ones,” explained Woods.

In the past, it took a lot of work to migrate a company to open source. Ingres is working to smooth out that process by partnering with other companies like Alfresco to help customers find more cost-efficient ways of operating.

Jump-Start Strategy

Open source is often less costly and can have little or no changeover costs, depending on the tasks being handled and the talent in house. But lower cost — rather than no cost — is the real sales message.

“We have seen with our customers that they have saved money compared to applications they were using previously, so the total cost of ownership is an issue when they switched to the same type of application from a proprietary product. There are costs still involved, however. It is not free if you want to use it in mission-critical situations,” Moynihan said.

Open source businesses have built up communities, and people would come to it as more of a grass-roots movement to find out about the software. Now Progress Software and other open source developers are doing more marketing to reach not just the community, the software developers and the grass-roots users, but also the buyers and users who are new to open source, she explained.

No Cost Lowering

Given the lower pricing threshold of open source, vendors are generally not resorting to price cuts on their support options. Instead, open source vendors are toying with how to push more value.

“Right now I’m not seeing a lowering of the cost of ownership with open source products as a result of the worsening economy. I have seen more creative pricing from players in the market. People are emphasizing the better choice with open source. I think generally people’s prices aren’t changing all that much,” said Moynihan.

Instead, firms are thinking about how to get started with open source faster without spending much money up front. For example, Progress is getting ready to kick off a free two-hour tutorial over the Web where people can call up and help them get started at no cost to them.

License Leeways

One factor that does not come into play with open source pricing strategies is licensing. Once a product is established at the community level, developers have little wiggle room.

“It’s difficult for open source communities to change their licensing once they’ve built up the community. They would only have the option to do this with new product offerings,” said Moynihan.

Instead, the focus is user acquisition. How can you convert them to a paying or support customer?

For instance, the more permissive licenses like Apache and MIT make it much easier to get adoption. They have very few restrictions on how someone can use the software, she explained. In these economic times, those licenses will become much more attractive because developers do not have to pay any money to modify the software and consumers can use it in any way they want without any restrictions.

On the other hand, the GPL and the LGPL licenses may require more consideration in adoptions because they have more restrictions. Many companies will shift to commercial licenses when they go into production, so those licenses may be less attractive to a developer, Moynihan said.

1 Comment

  • I sent this email to the Debian crowd at:

    This whole debian thing – is just soooooooooo difficult and one just goes around and around and around in circles.

    I JUST wanted an email address to send this request for a revision of a comment too, and there is 5,000,000 webpages of stuff I don’t need to see or can’t find anything on.

    This is an entirely WRONG statement and it needs to be changed.

    Downloading Debian CD/DVD images via HTTP/FTP

    Please do not download CD or DVD images with your web browser the way you download other files! The reason is that if your download aborts, most browsers do not allow you to resume from the point where it failed.

    Instead of whining at people with OUT OF DATE information, about what they can do, tell them what they can do and what works.

    I use DOWN THEM ALL – for FIREFOX and it resumes almost everything.

    I also think with the whole debian project – the website is just complicated and difficult.

    If your selling an concept and product to the consumer, especially a windows user – then your going to have to really tidy it up.

    I am ONLY interested in getting and doing, the programming and all the infinites – that I feel that for MOST PEOPLE on the planet, it’s either a luxury or a problem. While some of the MS software is crap and some of it is good… the reason why most people are using it is because it comes with the system and they turn it on and it (usually) works well.

    Putting aside the issue that the company are scumbags and their software is a rolling liability – most people – even the really stupid and lazy ones can get by without having to think too much about anything.

    The problem with this whole debian project is that this site and everything to do with it – it’s unacceptably difficult and complex.

    The whole site is so big, and so complex and it’s produced by people who appear to be writing their own perspective of their own operating system for each other, instead of having a single focus – that of cleverly marketing a slick Operating System with the utmost ease of user uptake.

    No wonder Linix is at the bottom of the up-take heap, I mean to change the spin a bit, if people had to go through this much shit to get a car and start traveling in it, everyone would have bicycles.

    Most people are not interested in telephone books of manuals, and user groups and discussion groups….

    When people want to buy a car, it’s not much more than present some kind of ID, sign the papers, hand over the cash, here are the keys, and go.

    IF your whole approach to persuading people to dump windows for a better operating system is much more complex that that – of course they are going to keep sticking to windows.

    I mean look at the alternatives?

    This are the email I have sent to other organisations on a similar theme.

    Underwhelming LOW standards, and overeaching complexity and just really crap service.



    This is what I wrote to the Linux From Scratch people

    Hi webmaster – if your not the one who handles this, can you forward it onto who does, for me.



    OK I am no dummy – but I do like material written in such a way as to to not be telling myself what I already know – but to be able to TEACH those who don’t.

    This site is MESSY and poorly laid out.

    It also has a dishonest element to it.

    OK to elaborate:

    I feel that MOST of the site could be laid out on 2 to 3 web pages.


    In terms of Hardening linux, I go here:

    What is Hardened Linux From Scratch?

    Hardened Linux From Scratch (HLFS) is a project that provides you with step-by-step instructions for building your own customized and hardened Linux system entirely from source. Based on LFS, this project will incorporate parts of BLFS as well. The main differences from these other projects will be the amount of text dealing with security configuration issues as well as patching or substituting many of the packages used for improved security.

    Why would I want an HLFS system?

    If you are wondering why you would want an HLFS system, just read any number of articles dealing with hackers and script kiddies breaking into systems and destroying them or stealing from them. This book goes to some extremes to lock down known and unknown security threats, including patching the core toolchain to prevent buffer overflows.

    If you are wondering why you would want an LFS system or don’t know what LFS is then you don’t want to be here just yet – you should head over to the LFS Project Homepage where all will be explained.

    What can I do with my HLFS system?

    This book will initially be geared towards building production-quality servers, routers, and firewalls. Many BLFS packages will compile and run as-is and work is under way to support the most problematic desktop tools as well.

    OK Question ONE – where is the book?.

    Secondly I go to the HOME page

    And this is all there is?

    LFS offers you added security

    You will compile the entire system from source, thus allowing you to audit everything, if you wish to do so, and apply all the security patches you want or need to apply. You don’t have to wait for someone else to provide a new binary package that (hopefully) fixes a security hole. Often, you never truly know whether a security hole is fixed or not unless you do it yourself.

    Well why isn’t all of that getting stuck on the ONE page.


    To my way of thinking, this is also bad..

    There ought to be only ONE document

    And get rid of the ERRATA – combine it with the main document.

    And the errata? If there are errors that come to light, after the book is produced, then ought the book be reclassified as "development".

    Current Stable

    This is the latest released LFS book, considered stable. Most people will want to read this book.

    As a result of bugs and security warnings, please be sure to read the errata page for any modifications needed to the LFS build.

    Stable LFS Errata

    Stable LFS

    Current Development

    This is the LFS Book in its current development state. More prone to bugs and faults that have not yet been caught. Use with care.

    As a result of bugs and security warnings, please be sure to read the errata page for any modifications needed to the LFS build.

    Development LFS Errata

    Development LFS

    Note: There is now an automatically generated wget list available to fetch all LFS Book packages automatically at

    Get the LFS 6.0 Hard Copy

    You can find information about the printed version of the LFS 6.0 book on the contribute page.


    This is sooooooooooooooooo poorly explained and it needs to be rewritten.

    Download the Official LFS LiveCD

    The following stable versions are supported and recommended for downloading:

    x86 (contains official LFS-6.3 book): lfslivecd-x86-6.3-r2160.iso

    x86_64 (contains unofficial LFS book): lfslivecd-x86_64-6.3-r2160.iso

    The -nosrc ISO images do not contain source tarballs, but are otherwise identical to the full releases. The -min ISO images contain no source tarballs and no X window system.

    Currently, there are no testing or unstable CDs that are supported.

    Go to this page:

    [DIR] Parent Directory –

    [ ] MD5SUMS 30-Dec-2007 12:40 802

    [ ] SHA1SUMS 30-Dec-2007 12:43 898

    [ ] lfslivecd-x86-6.3-r2145-min.iso 30-Nov-2007 10:05 231M

    [ ] lfslivecd-x86-6.3-r2145-nosrc.iso 30-Nov-2007 10:06 436M

    [ ] lfslivecd-x86-6.3-r2145.iso 30-Nov-2007 10:06 633M

    [ ] lfslivecd-x86-6.3-r2160-min.iso 30-Dec-2007 12:34 232M

    [ ] lfslivecd-x86-6.3-r2160-nosrc.iso 30-Dec-2007 12:36 424M

    [ ] lfslivecd-x86-6.3-r2160.iso 30-Dec-2007 12:36 621M

    [ ] lfslivecd-x86_64-6.3-r2145-min.iso 30-Nov-2007 10:03 218M

    [ ] lfslivecd-x86_64-6.3-r2145-nosrc.iso 30-Nov-2007 10:04 403M

    [ ] lfslivecd-x86_64-6.3-r2145.iso 30-Nov-2007 10:03 600M

    [ ] lfslivecd-x86_64-6.3-r2160-min.iso 30-Dec-2007 12:33 218M

    [ ] lfslivecd-x86_64-6.3-r2160-nosrc.iso 30-Dec-2007 12:33 402M

    [ ] lfslivecd-x86_64-6.3-r2160.iso 30-Dec-2007 12:33 599M

    I get back to an issue, of complexity and similar, why even have a manual or non-official manual in the download list?

    I think you should either have ONE manual that is properly sorted out and it ought to come with all versions.

    And there should be only 2 versions – 32 bit and 64 bit – that’s it.

    All this messing around with splitting infinitives…

    The official manual with and without errata, the guesswork manual, with and without errata.. in 32 bit in 64 bit….

    To me that shows me that the people who organise all of this do not have their shit together in a clear, methodical way.

    There should be NO MORE than 2 files to download.

    There should not be manual’s and errata’s, the manual should be available as a dated version with ongoing improvements.


    This is the generally dishonest bit

    I want put forward some ideas…. So I go to the support page…

    No email address’s. And no I don’t want to get into IRC channels. etc.

    I go to the bug report page…..

    And it’s the same as the home page with a small amount of variation and again no contact details – No email address’s.

    It’s what I find so frustrating with the linux propmoters is all this complexity and pissing around in infinite details…….

    No going to the site, minimal selection and downloading – none of that;

    I mean while Ubuntu may not be everyones flavour, at least they have simplified the whole process.

    If it was as unnecessarily complicated as this site, it would be a real inducement for a lot of people to just walk and go elsewhere.

    You need ONE complete, up to date download for both 32 bit and 64 bit systems and that is it.

    The cross duplication of almost identical information on many pages, has to go.

    The entire site should now be placed upon only 2 or so pages.

    1. What the site / OS is about.

    2. The download pages and

    3. Support.



    This is what I wrote to the IBM people who make the Lotus Office Suite

    OK with giving the "IBM Lotus Office Suite a go – as an alternative

    to MS office.

    OK as a comparison.

    If I want to get Open office – I just go

    here,"" and I select either downloading

    via P2P, CD or in a standard browser downloader.

    Then I click on the download – and it’s happening.

    Even with the shits in Microsoft – I go here,

    "" click on

    download and that is happening.

    But with IBM and LOTUS….

    This is what I have had to go through.

    First I am REQUIRED to register.

    Then there is all the shit with registering one self, including the

    emails…. and backwards and forwards we go.

    Then after registering… here is the list of web pages we have to

    go through…. just to get to the download.













    This process overall – is just petty beaurocracy gone mad; and I am

    thinking, "Don’t you people get it?"

    Are you so stupid that all the links to "Alternatives to MS OFFICE"

    link to this fucking insane bullshit trip.

    And then by using a STANDARD downloader, it comes down in a DMG


    None of this, click here, and it starts downloading in a EXE

    file… and when it’s downloaded – Yay and away we go..

    In terms of difficulty and outright stupidity – Where in the fuck

    do you people get off?

    Fuck IBM and the idiots who design this shit – no wonder everyone

    goes to Open Office.

    Because you people shit me, and I have complained about this before and nothing has been done.. – I am going to post the same issue in some forums.

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