As a specialist in Tech PR, I find that I need to help my editors (especially those with generic business magazines) understand the value of open source or indeed what it is. I hope to use this blog as a platform for sharing information that I hope will go a long way to helping this along.

In this article, David Allinson, GM at Opennet MEA (the Red Hat distributors in the Middle East & North Africa) has tried to tackle the benefits of training and skills in open source.




Open source has been growing exponentially around the world and now with all the major hardware and software vendors like the IBMs and Oracles of this world embracing both worlds, the demand for skills has escalated. According to IDC (2007), worldwide revenue from stand alone open source software is projected to reach $5.8 billion by 2011. The number of open source projects has increased from 16,249 in 2001 to 150,681 in 2007 (source: www.SourceForge.net).

In the Middle East & Africa (MEA) region, open source is growing faster than any other part of the world, and catching up fast not just in percentage points but in absolute numbers. Businesses in MEA are putting their mission critical systems from databases to application and portal servers using software like Red Hat and JBoss SOA. New technologies like virtualization are helping customers further consolidate and leverage the power of Open source on Linux and Windows.

CIO’s in MEA face similar challenges to CIO’s everywhere else – do more with less; innovate faster; get ROI from projects in months not years. Investing in open source ticks all these boxes. But all of these require skills. While all open source vendors and their partners offer some skill sets, there is a demand for skilled engineers to drive further adoption, especially in the MEA region.

So how difficult is it to acquire skills in Open Source? Not very difficult. For example, it takes 4 days for a seasoned UNIX administrator to become a RHCE (Red Hat Certified Engineer) and 2-3 weeks of instructor led classes for a Windows Administrator. With the advent of Internet, online courses have helped to propagate certification and training. Leading universities in the US like MIT offer Open Courseware that is used by over 300 world class universities, with over 2000 online courses and gets in excess of a million hits a day.

As one of the largest proponents of open source and training, Red Hat has an academy program that has two variants – Open Source University & Red Hat Academy providing universities across the world the opportunity to tap into the Red Hat resource for providing open source certification programs to all. This has already been successful in large universities everywhere else in the world like University of Wisconsin that has contributed to help create the world’s fastest messaging service engine under AMQP.org (Advanced Messaging Queuing Protocol) which is now an industry standard for messaging between applications.

In the MEA region too, several universities are eager to get in to the Red Hat Academy Program. In addition, open source proponents like Opennet have invested in training centres and skilled personnel offering certification courses (whether at its training centre or on the customers’ premises) along with professional support services.

It’s a chicken or egg situation. If you want to maximise ROI while adopting new technologies, open source offers the
best alternatives but you need to invest in skills whether these are in-house or outsourced. If you want to forgo the investment in skills, in today’s economic scenario, you may need to eschew some of the new technologies in the
interests of short term survival or spend money on monolithic technologies that won’t necessarily yield the quickest ROI.

In David’s opinion, for the savvy CIO, this choice is relatively simple. In today’s economic scenario, they have a viable,
cost effective alternative in the open source module with a relatively smaller investment in a resource that should yield immediate ROI bonuses for the enterprise. Easy to deploy and use, accountable services given the subscription
model versus licenses and fast implementation given the agility and reliability of software.

It ticks all the boxes.

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