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Open Source IT Management Service Firms…?

I’ve been talking with John Willis quite a bit recently as he’s in Austin for a client project. If you’ve been following John Willis’s blog, you know he’s recently gotten enamored of the open source IT management projects and companies. More importantly, he’s an IT management (or “ESM” as he’d put it) veteran and his BS meter is finely tuned.

The Common Theme of Services

Two things that keep coming up as in our talks and as I reflect on our conversations are:

  • While there’s plenty of opportunity in IT management, most big enterprise sales require a lot of servicing. Servicing is a tricky thing to scale because it’s bound by flesh: you need actual people to do it. Folks like The OpenNMS Group and Reductive Labs (Puppet) are finding enough of service deals, to keep going, other VC funded companies (some RedMonk clients like Zenoss and Groundwork) are getting sales by a software shop with “support” as their primary labeled sale (folks like Hyperic get revenue from OEM and partnership deals). The tension at an open source company is figure out if you’re a software shop or a services shop. For whatever reason (services based businesses are harder to “flip” than software companies?), I get the feeling that the word “services” is VC-poison, so people try to avoid using and thinking in it.
  • There seems to be the opportunity for an open source IT management services firm. This firm would span above all the open source projects and focus on being a services rather than a software shop. Unless you’re mega-company like IBM, balancing services and software development is tough and pricey. Here, you might expect someone like Covalent to offer support & services for various open source IT management frameworks. Groundwork’s ethos sort of fits well here too.

What’s the “services” opportunity here? Now, this part is getting into the territory of wild speculation, but it’s worth scenerio’ing out.