Open-Source IT Management Vendor Zenoss Turns To Channel

Zenoss offers an open-source IT management and monitoring system that it's pitching as an alternative to the big systems-management suites sold by CA, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and BMC Software -- products that Zenoss co-founder and CEO Bill Karpovich not so subtly refers to as "bloatware."

And now the two-year-old Annapolis, Md.-based company, which won substantial venture funding last year, is ramping up a channel program to accelerate adoption of its product, Zenoss Core, which is targeted particularly at the midmarket.

Zenoss' timing may be right. Most businesses wouldn't have considered using open-source software of any kind just a few years ago, let alone for something as critical as systems management. But that thinking has changed as open-source software such as Linux, the MySQL database and the JBoss application server have won wide acceptance.

Zenoss Core, which CTO Erik Dahl began developing in 2002, provides network, server and application monitoring in a single tool. It maintains an inventory of a company's IT assets, monitors their availability and performance, and manages their configuration. Zenoss Core also handles software patch chores and issues alerts for system events, and it runs on Linux, Unix and Windows.

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While that may sound like a lot, Karpovich said Zenoss is careful not to load up its software with lots of bells and whistles that increase complexity and operating costs, which he said other systems management software vendors do.

"Our goal is not to build everything in. We try to provide just the core functions," Karpovich said.

Zenoss is following Red Hat's business model, offering the Zenoss Core product free via the Internet. It has been available on for just over a year and was named March's "project of the month" by SourceForge staff.

Customers can buy subscriptions that include service and support and libraries of plug-in tools for monitoring enterprise apps like Oracle E-Business Suite and Microsoft Exchange. Plug-ins for monitoring other open-source software like MySQL and Apache are also free.

Why go to the channel? Karpovich said demand for Zenoss Core is growing, and the product has reached a stage of maturity so that third-party companies can support it. The company is recruiting systems integrators that can use the product to develop solutions and sell services around it, managed service providers that can use it to monitor and manage customers' IT systems, and ISVs that can build custom plug-ins.

Zenoss will provide partners with training, other supporting material and services, and a 25-seat subscription for an annual $2,500 partner fee. Integrators will provide first-level support for customers, with Zenoss providing second- or third-tier support. In addition, the company can provide first-level support for VARs' customers.

"I think the real win comes from the expertise base," said Bill Kennedy, president of Beacon Professional Services, a Zenoss consulting and implementation partner in Austin, Texas, referring to the communities of users and developers that grow up around open-source products and contribute to their development. And creating a channel organization stands to help that community grow.