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Open Impressions

At times, it seems as if the entire universe will be running on open-source software soon. If Qlusters has its way, that'll certainly be the case for systems management software.
The Palo Alto-based company recently decided to take its QRM data center management package to open source under the Mozilla Public License, figuring that it'll get a good reception in an IT community more inured to open-source enterprise software by the day, and that it'll also reap the usual benefits of code thrashing and input from users in the field.

Qlusters VP of marketing and business development Fred Gallagher says that the usual factor that sparks interest in open source also applies in this case--controlling costs. "You have companies out there that in some cases have gone from zero to hundreds of servers, and they find that there are a lot of hidden costs with keeping those servers running," he says. "We estimate that companies can be spending $7,500 a year for each server."

If cost is a focus, then it's working, says one customer. Tradeware Global manager of IT operations Jordan Greenberg says QRM has reduced the time his staff spends provisioning servers for the electronic trading firm from hours to minutes. "Data center management is a black hole of time and money; every minute that I can have somebody working on actual data instead of messing with the servers is worth it," he says. "With this, I can repurpose servers on the spot, with generic images that aren't tied to a specific machine. And I know the software will grow with our needs because of the open-source model."

Qlusters will also have a version of QRM later this year with some proprietary extensions and add-ins, furthering a business model that it thinks will do fine in the open-source arena. I suspect that with the continued interest in Linux, they may be right. I was surprised to see how much enterprise interest there is in Linux packages outside the standard enterprise Red Hat/Novell axis, and extending support to those is a key move that Qlusters needs to do (it's already working on that, says Gallagher). But soon enough, it'll be possible to have an enterprise data center running totally on reliable, uncertified, continually extensible software from OS to apps to the management system. Your budget sure likes that idea.