Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The Dells of Open Source

One common way to innovate is to combine two or more different things and create something new that is more than a sum of parts. This happens in music all the time. Musicians take what they like -- their influences -- and combine them in their own way. Sometimes you get literal combinations that create little genres like "trip-hop," "ambient dub," our "sadcore," but most often you just get bands that, "sound like a faster mix of band X and band Y."

Sooo... what do you get when you combine Dell and Open Source? As covered by CNET in Industry veterans bet on open-source model, you get a startup called SourceLabs. SourceLabs looks to make money by efficiently sourcing, pre-integrating, and selling solutions made from low-cost ($0) open source software packages. I like the analogy, and certainly being the "Dell" of anything has a nice ring to it.

Now this is nothing that Redhat and others haven't done for the likes of Linux and other now established open source products. So in a way, it's just more of the same good stuff -- giving corporate adopters of open source "one throat to choke." But still, I like thinking about this in terms of Dell, rather than just purely in terms of selling support and peace of mind. Dell makes money combining commodity hardware and offering computing solutions, Redhat does the same for operating system, and SourceLabs will pre-integrate and sell open source "stacks." No word yet on which or how many stacks.

My big question is how does this scale? Can SourceLabs, or someone like them, go big and become the Amazon of open source? Or just focus on a core set of applications, like Linux (or Dell)? I expect to see many more companies like this in the near future.

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