SourceLabs is a brand new company headed up by Byron Sebastian with Brad Silverberg
on the board. They want to bring the advantages of commercial support,
mostly dependable integration and accountability, to open source
I've been reading their website to find out how they intend to make
money and create sustainable competitive advantage. Let's look at the
services they intend to offer and see how they contribute to these
- Certification and testing of combinations of open source components
for a particular purpose: There's not very much money to be made
charging for certification services.
This could contribute to
create competitive advantage. If enough open source vendors put the
logo on their “box” (websites, docs, …) it could establish SourceLabs
as an industry standard of quality. This will be an uphill battle
though, because other open source vendors will view SourceLabs as
competition (or at least they should).
- A multi-tiered support strategy, ranging from a self-service
knowledge base to having engineers who are intimately familiar with the
customer's code. There's definitely a good business here but I really
doubt that the people at Ignition Partners would get excited about
funding yet another consulting company.
- The most intriguing part comes from a single sentence on the SourceLabs website:
” In addition maintenance work also involves developing service packs
and distributing critical updates e.g. security patches. “
The biggest worry of any administrator is that updating one component
will make another one fail. Addressing this worry is SourceLab's core
value proposition. If there's a problem, SourceLabs will own it so no
valuable time will be lost on multi-vendor finger-pointing. And of
course, the more you pay, the quicker you get the service packs and
security updates. And the more servers or seats you have, the more you
They're essentially doing everything a traditional software company
would do, except develop (and own exclusive rights to) the core code.
There was an article on News.com where Brad Silverberg was quoted that SourceLabs wants to become the Dell of Open Source Software.
It seems that the comment was somewhat overblown and taken out of
context, but it did may think that shouldn't be the Dell, but the
McDonalds of Software. Huh? Let me explain:
In addition to providing certification of component combinations,
SourceLabs should certify engineers and consultants. Programs like Microsoft's MCSD and Novel's YES
certification have their own set of problems, but they do create an
army of smart people who have invested in your company. There's a need
for this in the Open Source world, especially as it concerns the
integration of multiple components.
SourceLabs could take this concept one step further and provide the
opportunity for tight integration with the SourceLabs business. There's
an enormous opportunity for professional integration services that are
backed by reliability testing and the possibility of trouble ticket
This opportunity is too large for even a well-funded company to take
on by itself. In a franchising business like McDonalds, the mother
company provides the core infrastructure and brand, and the franchisee
provides the entrepreneurship and knowledge of local markets.
That exact structure could work perfectly in SourceLabs' business
model: SourceLabs could quickly get an enormous reach by franchising
the low-end part of their business. It would be very tricky to do it
right, but when successful they would essentially own the Open Source
integration business from top to bottom. [Live @ Sax.net]