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While there has been a lot of healthy debate about the value of selling open-source technologies in the channel, one area that received little or no attention is the value of using open-source products.

That all looks like it might be about to change with the arrival of an open-source platform for delivering managed services from Zenoss. Although Zenoss is hardly a major name in the channel, the company already has 4,000 deployments of its platform, mostly among telecommunications providers and independent software vendors that have moved into the managed-services space.

All told, the company has 30,000 people registered to use the product with about 100 of those people actively contributing code to the development of the platform. Zenoss intends to expand its customer base by actively recruiting traditional solution providers with a relatively simple message. Because Zenoss gives its customers access to the software code that powers the platform, the solution providers that use the platform can more easily differentiate themselves from other providers in the market by developing applications on top of the Zenoss platform.

To read more about the Zenoss strategy, click here.

In contrast, every other managed-services platform in the market is based on proprietary code. That means that whatever applications developed by the companies that own those platforms are available to everybody who licenses the platform.

The way Zenoss makes money is that it charges a fee to companies that use its development kit to customize the platform. In addition, it provides customers with the ability to resell those customized applications to other solution providers through a network managed by Zenoss.

Beyond the fact that Zenoss provides a way to deliver managed services less expensively, what is interesting about the whole model is how it can be applied elsewhere. For example, it would not take much of an investment to provide a set of managed services around the MySQL database from Sun or the JBoss application server from Red Hat.

Most of the providers of open-source technologies have done a poor job of promoting their products in the channel, but as costs continue to become a factor in a softening economy, a lot of solution providers are going to look for ways to deliver services to their customers more profitably. And as that continues to happen, the odds are good that in the years ahead open-source technologies will be playing a much bigger role in the channel.