Ten Leading Open Source Innovators

Profiles of companies on the forefront of open source application development. We look at their key project, funding, top personnel, and market strategy.
Posted February 21, 2007

Jeff Vance

Jeff Vance

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It’s a contentious time for the open-source community. Microsoft has partnered with Novell, Oracle is angling for Red Hat’s customer base, while Linux is promising to enlarge its influence in the burgeoning market for mobile phones and set-top boxes.

In the past, any open-source discussion centered on Linux, but now that Linux is a mature, stable operating system, the real innovation is happening elsewhere. As Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff notes, what’s most interesting is what happens when the open-source push collides with other technology trends – when it enters the data center, when it drives the virtualization movement, when it changes how software is delivered and monetized, or when it spurs application ecosystems.

Gartner analyst George Weiss opines that just 12-18 months ago, there were still questions about whether open-source business models were sustainable. Now, no such questions remain. Open source is becoming so pervasive that big proprietary vendors are not just embracing open source but now must be careful not to be seen as impeding the progress, fearing both developer and customer backlashes.

With those points in mind, here are ten leading commercial open-source innovators and the projects they’re working on:

1. Zenoss

Location: Annapolis, MD

Product or Service: Zenoss Core is open-source network and systems monitoring software. The product includes automatic configuration change tracking, automated remediation of IT infrastructure problems, and other IT management features that are critical for effective IT management.

Why it’s innovative: IT monitoring and management is difficult enough in proprietary environments. Too many tasks are cumbersome, labor-intensive and error-prone. Cobbling together disparate open-source offerings has thus far been a non-starter. Zenoss Core provides the necessary features to monitor an organization’s complete IT infrastructure, including network devices, servers, applications, and environmental controls in a single solution.

The latest version, released on January 26, 2007, also offers automatic change tracking and remediation. Core allows users to build policy rules for automatic remediation steps based on availability issues, performance issues or alarms. Compared to the commercial offerings on the market, such as IBM Tivoli/HP OpenView, or BCM Patrol, Core is significantly less expensive and requires no vendor lock-in, while providing an easy to use web-based GUI and template-based policies.

What’s their track record? The initial release of Zenoss Core has gained some traction in the mid-market where customers can’t typically afford the offerings from the incumbents. Zenoss claims it provides 80% of the functionality of the big offerings at 20% of the cost.

In its first four months of release, Zenoss Core registered more than 50,000 downloads. Based on download statistics from SourceForge.net, Zenoss Core was the most popular commercial open-source IT management platform and achieved an activity rank of 250 out of more than 133,000 registered open-source projects.

Funding: Zenoss recently closed a $4.8 million funding round led by Boulder Ventures and Intersouth Partners with participation from the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development and individual investors.

What are the major obstacles to overcome? This is a tough market. Besides taking on behemoths like IBM/Tivoli and CA, Zenoss must also fend of other open-source competitors, including Groundwork Open Source, Hyperic and Qlusters.

Who’s on the management team? Bill Karpovich, CEO and co-founder, formerly held leadership positions with several IT startups including USinternetworking and Digex, both of which had successful IPO’s on NASDAQ. Erik Dahl, CTO and co-founder, was previously a senior architect at USinternetworking and director of product development for Meta4. Steve McManus, SVP sales and service, formerly co-founded USinternetworking and served as vice chairman. Mark R. Hinkle, VP business and community development, co-founded both the Open Source Management Consortium and the Desktop Linux Consortium, while previously serving as Editor-in-Chief for both LinuxWorld Magazine and Enterprise Open Source Magazine.

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