Zenoss Calls On Channel To Sell Open-Source Management Tool

Management tools of all stripes have a reputation for being big, expensive and difficult to implement. Zenoss wants to change that.

Zenoss has developed an open-source IT management and monitoring system that it's pitching as an alternative to the big systems-management suites sold by BMC, CA, Hewlett-Packard and IBM--products Zenoss co-founder and CEO Bill Karpovich not so subtly refers to as "bloatware." And now the 2-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, particularly among midmarket customers.

The company's timing may be just right. Most businesses wouldn't have dreamed of 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 earned widespread 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. It also handles software-patch chores and issues alerts for system events. Zenoss Core runs on Linux, Unix and Windows.

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While that may sound ambitious, Karpovich says Zenoss is being careful not to load up its software with lots of bells and whistles that increase complexity and operating costs, as he says other systems-management software vendors do. "Our goal is not to build everything in. We try to provide just the core functions," he says.

Zenoss is following Red Hat's business model, offering the Zenoss Core product for free over the Internet. (It's been available on SourceForge.net 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 such as Oracle E-Business Suite and Microsoft Exchange. (Plug-ins for monitoring other open-source software like MySQL and Apache are also free.)

So, why the channel? Karpovich says demand for Zenoss Core is growing, and the product has matured to the point where third-party companies can support it. The vendor 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 independent software vendors that can build custom plug-ins.

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

"I think the real win comes from the expertise base," says 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. Creating a channel organization will help those communities grow.