Opengear's Open Source Odyssey

Startup finds out that open source hardware business isn't quite what it had expected.
Open source

Open source has proven itself in recent years to be a successful mechanism for software vendors -- but what about hardware? In the case of open source hardware maker Opengear, open source is working but it's not working out in the way it had initially expected.

Opengear makes hardware management devices for keyboard, video, mouse, or KVM (define), consoles and is now expanding with a wider array of hardware management with its new KCS console server product line.

"We started the company and took an aggressive open source approach, not for any religious zealot reason but just because we saw it as a good value proposition for the customer," Bob Waldie, CEO and chairman of Opengear, told InternetNews.com. "We tried to do open source software and hardware, and it has not been the success we hoped for."

Opengear launched its first open source KVM product, the CM4000, in 2005. The basis of Opengear's original product was the Okvm open source project Opengear still supports. Okvm is an effort to develop a fully open source KVM platform including hardware and software.

The new KCS product line from Opengear goes beyond its pure open source KVM roots and is an integrated management appliance that lets enterprises manage everything they have in a rack. So as opposed to KVM, which typically just manages headless servers, the KCS platform also manages uninterruptible power supplies, or UPSs (define), communications equipment as well as virtual operating environments.

"It is open but not as much open source as the work we did before," Waldie explained. According to Waldie, KCS uses open source to empowers customers without the entire platform being open source.

Though Waldie noted that open source hasn't quite worked out for Opengear as he had expected, that's not to say that Opengear hasn't made money from its open source KVM platform.


Making money on open source

Waldie commented that the CM4000 KVM console, which is based on the Okvm project, is Opengear's core business product and primary revenue generator.

Money alone, however, is not the defining factor for open source success.

Waldie noted that Opengear is still actively developing the Okvm project, but it's lacking in broader participation. "We don't actually have a rich community of third parties that are developing and extending the product and that's probably the acid test for an open source project," Waldie said.

This article was first published on InternetNews.com.






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