The Open Source "Channel"

RedHat announced the launch of the Open Source Channel Alliance, and different folks already commented on it ..

Frankly I think the Open Source "Channel" shouldn't exist ..

So let's take a step back and see what the "Channel" actually means.

It used to mean that a vendor didn't want to manage the logistics of shipping and delivering his product to the end user, you know .. like the big boxen used 3rd parties to provide the logistics, often that "enduser" being a local system integrator that wasn't allowed, and still isn't, to order his stuff from the actual vendor, either because he is ordering in too small quantities or any other reasons. Logistics became marketing support , offering training and sometimes presales support.

So the small/local system integrator has to order from his upstream reseller which often had to order from his country distributor, who then would order the box from the actual vendor, but in lots of cases contact between the vendor and the actual user is never made. With physical boxen to be shipped, often to locations where the actual vendor can't really have a presence this partly makes sense, however sometimes things get ridiculous, situations where a customer can talk to the vendor directly but can't order from him because of these channel partners wanting to have a piece of the cake are no expection.

When it comes down to last years' software there is no box to be shipped anymore .. yet still often 2-3 layers of boxmovers are in the channel between the vendor and the customer. So now all they do is forward the license keys , via email.

So how does a support call go ?
Yep.. sometimes it goes straight trough that same channel... slowly .. This was one of the reasons why back in 2000 I decided to drop any form of proprietary unix or proprietary software running on unix. (Back then : Solaris, Allaire Coldfusion , and the range of iPlanet products ..) I was fed up with their absolute lack of support .. never getting to speak with people that knew the product, mostly speaking with marketeers locally pushing the product .. having to call my reseller asking to put pressure on the country distributor who then might call the acutal vendor .. No thanks, not for me anymore
I wanted to talk to the people who actually created the product so Open Source was they only way forward.

So what happens when former VP's of proprietary vendors such as Citrix end up at startups such as XenSource for their next gig , what do you think happens... they want to reuse that giant network they've build over the years and have that network resell their products. So they call all their friends again and set up a channel, of higly incompetent resellers that have absolutely no clue what they are moving in side the box.

Selling a product from a product sheet, rather than helping a customer solving his problem is the typical IT Sales guy job.
He knows his spec sheets and when he doesn't know the answer he calls up on his upstream channel for more imput.
They organized roadshows and demo's for customers and try to push them the newest and latest release of a product. They are still thinking in terms of margins and uplift on a license rather than

Their "tech" staff is certified to know everything the vendor explained in the training (and nothing more) and will quickly escalate a problem they haven't seen before upstream .. (well .. not that quickly .. but you get my pain..)
Obviously this is the kind of partners the RedHat's and Open Core vendors of this world love, clueless system integrators that have to open tickets and upsell support to their customers as they can't solve the problems themselves.

So even with other companies joining the opensource channel alliance , this really isn't a good thing for the customers,

On the positive side ... more people will get offers including a limited set of Open Source, and obviously Open Core , alternatives as the channel salesdroid will add these solutions to his portofolio.

But will these people get the real benefits of Open Source ? Will they get the more suitable Open Source project for their needs ? Probaly not ...

I really don't see how any of this fits with an Open Source Philosophy , it just doesn't, it's still the Enterprise Software Vending model 1.0

Now where's my next channel partner golfday invitation ?

P.S.: I should state: "The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent Inuits' positions, strategies, or opinions."