javivazquez at Zentyal

It (the business model) works

March 20, 2011 · No Comments

Last Tuesday, I attended to a gathering of public administrations using or interested in open source software: “III Intercambio Experiencias Foro de Administraciones Públicas”, funded by CENATIC. The goal of the event is to make easier for Spanish public organizations sharing experiences about their open source projects.

During the whole day, the word Zentyal was present, 3 of the talks commented about their experiences with Zentyal Server. Actually, the Council which kindly hosted us for the gathering (Marchena) was managing its network and internet access with Zentyal :-)

In the afternoon, I got a call from our R&D certification advisor about the amounts in 2010, and he told me Zentyal had appeared in an Spanish on-line publication about innovation (Madrid I+D). Moreover, through Facebook, some of my friends let me know that a generic magazine, “Muy interesante”, also published a reference to Zentyal Server as the alternative to Windows Small Business Server.

Zentyal was everywhere in Spain on Tuesday, our popularity keeps growing. However, converting popularity in cash is not an easy task, that’s what I want to talk about in this post.

The hardest issue for an open source start-up is not to gain popularity (tough enough though), but to make users pay for a free product.  It’s “the penny gap“, a concept created by the the venture capitalist Josh Kopelman:

The truth is, scaling from $5 to $50 million is not the toughest part of a new venture – it’s getting your users to pay you anything at all. The biggest gap in any venture is that between a service that is free and one that costs a penny.

Zentyal Server is open source GPL and free (as free beer). Our business model is based on subscriptions, add-ons and technical support; which are sold mainly through certified VARs and on-line.

The last six months we have been selling subscriptions on-line, growing consistently quarter to quarter and so proving ourselves that our subscriptions are considered a compelling reason to buy by Zentyal users.  Our business model is supported by the numbers, it works.

Now it’s time to invest in sales and grow.

→ No CommentsCategories: misc

El futuro del Software Libre

September 21, 2010 · 1 Comment

Desde el cambio de marca, eBox se ha convertido en Zentyal y nuestra web corporativa aparece ya en inglés y español. Por ello, dado ese pequeño gran paso, el idioma de Cervantes tendrá cabida también en este mi blog. Desde ahora, escribiré en inglés o castellano indistintamente.

Para bautizar esta nueva era bilingüe, desde Gaceta Tecnológica me han pedido opinión sobre el Software Libre y su futuro, y sobre mi particular visión de este asunto versa este post.

En primer lugar, aclarar que escribo Software Libre, con mayúsculas, porque lo considero un nombre propio, algo sin duda incorrecto en cuanto a la gramática, pero merecido en mi opinión.

No en vano, el Software Libre y en particular el modelo económico, tecnológico y social que lo rodea se han convertido en una referencia a imitar en los ámbitos más diversos:

  • En la política y el gobierno de países anglosajones, donde la (bienvenida) fiebre de transparencia y apertura de datos  es la norma y objetivo ya para norteamericanos (Obama) y británicos (Cameron+Clegg), pronto en el resto del mundo.
  • En la industria tecnológica, donde multinacionales de toda condición van mucho más allá del empleo de software libre en sus productos (como IBM con Linux y Apache desde finales del siglo pasado), sino que liberan su propia tecnología y buscan a través de la apertura y la colaboración con terceros el liderazgo en el mercado. Google con Android y Nokia con Symbian son claros ejemplos.
  • En la educación y la generación de materiales educativos, con el caso ejemplarizante de California creando sus propios libros de texto digitales y libres (“Free digital textbook initiative“).

El mundo, en sentido amplio, replica un patrón cuando lo necesita: En un sistema capitalista, ligado indisolublemente al crecimiento exponencial e infinito, la economía exige desarrollo asociado a materias primas inagotables, no finitas. Y el conocimiento lo es.

Por tanto, la tan mentada “economía del conocimiento” no es (sólo) una moda, sino (también) una imperiosa urgencia. Y el único modelo en torno al conocimiento que ha demostrado ser compatible con el sistema económico global actual es, cuál si no, el del Software Libre. Nuestro mundo requiere del Sotftware Libre para sobrevivir…

Y apoyado en sus valores intrínsecos (compartición, colaboración, transparencia, meritocracia), el futuro del Software Libre es mejorar el mundo y las sociedades en las que vivimos, en un sentido mucho maś amplio y profundo del que ni siquiera podemos ahora mismo imaginar.

→ 1 CommentCategories: misc
Tagged: , , ,

Contribute by self interest

September 1, 2010 · 2 Comments

As you already know, eBox has changed its name to Zentyal, so eBox Platform Zentyal 2.0 is just around the corner. Actually, after Lenovo announced a couple of days ago its eBox game console name, we all have re-agreed that the name change was a (very) good idea :-)

As you are very well informed on our new name nature and meaning (even on the pronunciation ;)), I would like to highlight other shift announced by our CEO -Nacho Correas- a few days ago: the opening up of the eBox Zentyal development.

Nacho referred to the new Localization Teams (or i18n, internationalization), a big success given the number of volunteers already gathered, and I want to talk about the development itself.

First of all, let me make clear that it is not that the development of eBox Platform has been closed from the beginning. The project is GPL since 2005 and the community has helped a lot in its evolution, mainly with feedback, testing and i18n. However, although there was a pretty good documentation for developing new modules, only a couple of guys from the community offered themselves to start coding (nothing happened though).

I know, we are a privately funded company, eBox Zentyal is not a foundation and the company is investing time and money with the idea of getting that amount N times in the future. Why anyone should collaborate in making us “rich”?

Well, actually, as you know, money is not the only issue we human beings care of. Moreover, there a lot of good articles out there explaining our reasons to collaborate and contribute to, e.g., open source projects, even when they are ruled by a private company. For this post, I just want to talk about one of them: self-interest.

The good thing of open source products is that anyone can download your software and build a new product, or just offer services on top of it. Honestly, we do it with Ubuntu Server and a bunch of open source modules, so we understand and support that others do it with eBox Zentyal as well. Open source is a source of innovation and business, it is good by itself.

Having said that, there are more than 3,600 members currently registered in our forum. Additionally, at least other 100 companies worldwide are offering services around eBox Zentyal. Even more, there are many public and private organizations customizing eBox Zentyal Server for their own needs.

So, the good news is that we are more open than ever to accept your contribution, share the IP and take care of it for your self interest, whether:

* You are a student who wants to get introduced in the open source world and, who knows, make a living of it…

* Your company is selling eBox Zentyal with some new small/big new modules, but you are busy enough giving services to invest more time in maintenance and evolution…

* Your organization is customizing eBox Zentyal for hundreds/thousand of schools/councils and, glup, it is going to be a mess to merge it with our new brand new version…

Then, be brave and start/continue developing the Zentyal module you always wanted to have, inside our community.

Contribute, we will be keen of helping and supporting you to do so, by self mutual interest.

→ 2 CommentsCategories: community · foundations
Tagged: , , , ,

Professional subscriptions for eBox partners

June 23, 2010 · No Comments

In general in the open source realm, and specifically regarding to subscriptions, the best known and more successful company is (not surprisingly) called Red Hat.

Red Hat has thrilled based on a business model of selling subscriptions for his Linux servers, and they explain very well the value of Red Hat Subscriptions at their corporate website, using a language mostly oriented to final customers.

In a couple of posts, I am interested in putting some light on the benefits of eBox Professional Subscriptions, but from the point of view of  the eBox Partners who sell them.

For the sake of this post extension , I will talk only about eBox Professional Subscriptions, as Enterprise Subscriptions offer a different (and extra) value to partners. Then, from our website:

eBox Professional Subscription is intended for use in production environments in small and medium businesses. The subscription comes with a full version of the eBox Platform software and it includes Quality Assured software updates, guaranteed by eBox Technologies.

Furthermore, the Professional Subscription includes access to Virtual CIO that provides alerts on hardware functioning, network events, service availability and Internet connection, as well as weekly/monthly reports on the overall performance of the network and services, inventory on installed and active services and regular security audits on the system.

Quality software updates combined with Virtual CIO imply a couple of very straight forward values for partners:

  • Security. The subscribed machines will have QA updates, meaning that eBox Technologies tests the patches and bugfixes internally and release them in its own repository, certifying that they won’t cause any problem. Therefore, the software installed at their customers just works, and it is automatically updated without any hassle for partners.
  • Client loyalty. Additionally, partners will have all the diagnosis tools of the Virtual CIO (see above) and the possibility to contract 3rd level support from eBox. Reports and alerts, automatically generated, allow partners both to keep the servers up and justify the service given to customers without extra effort.

A consequence of security and client loyalty is more income with less effort for partners:

  • Cash flow & low workload for the partner: Instead of charging a big amount of money per license (Microsoft model), eBox focuses on charging small annual fees to managed clients’ servers, sharing the benefits with the partner with very reduced (or zero) extra workload for them.

eBox certified Partners keep selling their own services for consultancy, deployment and technical support (the latest optionally backed by eBox), but with a complement for increasing security and and client loyalty, in form of eBox Professional Subscriptions.

→ No CommentsCategories: VAR channel
Tagged: , , , ,

Building a VAR channel

June 1, 2010 · No Comments

I remind a conversation with Marten Mickos, recently named CEO of Eucalyptus Systems, about building a VAR channel, a year ago (during the Innovate Europe! 2009, which eBox was one of the ten finalists). Marten was our mentors there, he told us loud and clear that building a VAR channel was hard, really hard.

Marten, you were so right! After working on eBox partner program during the whole 2009 Summer, eBox signed its first 3 official partners on September 2009. 9 months and over 200 partners worldwide petitions later, we have evolved our partner program to a more easy to understand and customer-oriented one.

From a DIY services offering based only on 3rd level technical support, to a server and on-line services subscriptions one, with public prices and growing discounts for partners depending on partnership levels (well known Bronze, Silver and Gold). More simple and packaged seem to be better.

Having certified and signed more than 20 so far, with ten currently in the certification process, during June we are reaching the 30 certified partners mark. All of our certified partners employ from 1 to 3 eBox certified technicians, who have completed the on-line course “eBox for network administrators”.

On the other hand, surprisingly, over 30% of the +200 companies that have requested us for partnership stated they were selling eBox already somehow, shaping a rich ecosystem of officially certified and non certified eBox providers. The more options, the best for our clients and community… The complexity of open source ecosystems is so complex as fascinating .

Still struggling to build a worldwide eBox VAR channel, we keep evolving our products and services to make them more simple to understand, sell, deploy and manage.

Marten’s MySQL lasted not less than 3 years to build a credible VAR channel, let’s see where we are able to reach in 9 months from now. Stay tunned.

→ No CommentsCategories: VAR channel