[Date Prev][Date Next] [Chronological] [Thread] [Top]

Proposal for openldap project financing.

Hi, folks

I have some personal interest in seeing the openLDAP go into the  same league with "apache", or "samba" projects, and for this it's important to have a steady flow of $$/??.

The other day I cought myself thinking about the problem of assuring the good financial basis for openLDAP project, and I think I may have something usefull for you. There is no good list for "project organisation", so I'll drop it here in the hope it may be usefull.

First a short analysis:

1) Who is making $$ on openLDAP?

This one is simple: the only way to make money on an open source server system is by providing service around it. Most big service providers have their own directory solutions, so I presume we generally talk about relatively small service providers that are specialised in Open Source solutions.

2) Who are the end users?

As far as I can see, LDAP is a typical backend system, and thus relatively uninteresting for "consumers". Typical users will thus be the companies/organisations/universities. In particular, SoHO segment may be interested in using the openLDAP, and actually paying for the service, if:

        a) The total price needed to set up and run the system is  significantly lower than it would be with Microsoft solution.
        b) They can easily find a trustworthy service provider in the neigboorhood.
        c) They can be assured that many other people use the same solution

3) What about the big companies?

The situation is similar to SoHO, but big companies will be particularly interested in a service provider that can offer high quality 24/7 support on all the relevant locations. This means either one big service company (usual story), or a well organised network of smaller providers (possible, but I'm not aware of such networks). A losely connected network of "certified" service providers may also do in some cases.

4) How can we assure that part of the $$ that flows around openLDAP actually ends up in the project?

Now this is an interesting point. You can rest assured that many of the folks who sell services around openLDAP have a generally positive feelings towards the project, may contribute with coding/testing, but most of them still wan't give any $$ back unless they see some direct benifits for their business. End users are even more fun - some of them may be ready to act as small "sponsors" of some kind, but most just expect that "someone else" will pay for the development (they will happily pay for the services though!).

So, what possibilities there are?

* "Street performer" model is unlikely to work for you, because companies generally don't understand the concept (small OpenSource companies sometimes do, big ones simply don't.), and LDAP isn't very "hot" for home users
* Clasical "offer the services and value added stuff" model requires a commercial organisation around openLDAP (like MySQL). It's a good model, but requires a lot of organisational work.
* "ask for sponsors" model is IMO best suited for you, especially if you offer the sponsors something in return.
This isn't really a news - openLDAP project already does ask for sponsors, and two sponsors are listed on the web site. Good start, but you can do better if sponsors see some additional benefits.

So the question is "what could we offer in return", or:

5) How can we help the service providers to earn more $$/?? with OpenLDAP?

From 2, 3, and 4 it's obvious that money will flow if an only if potential customers can:

        a) easily find the service provider near them. (searchable DB of "certified" service providers)
        b) be sure that a solution to their problem at hand already exists. (searchable "solutions" DB, possibly with customers testimonies!)
        c) be assured in the openLDAP software quality. (put some benchmarks and such on the site!)
        d) be assured in the service provider quality. (ditto)

Two more concrete suggestions:


Explanation: End users want to be assured of the service provider quality. A central certification program is exactly what business customers are expecting to see...
Business model: Sell openldap certifications to service providers.  
Problem: Non-comercial organisations are not very good at this kind of work, and it's a lot of work. You may try with "sponsoring program" instead of certifications at first.


Explanation: End users need to find a service provider in the neigboorhood. openldap.org is highly visible, and thus you could effectively "sell" the place on your web server.
Business model: Members of the openldap.org get a right to advertise as such, and also get referenced on openldap.org web pages. In addition, one could also offer a place where members could set up a searchable DB with openLDAP based "solutions" - visible only to other members, with world-readable summaries.
Problem: Someone needs to get this started, find & contact the service providers, and so on. Besides, you need at least some kind of primitive quality control to assure you don't advertise fake service providers. Possible solutions would be to let everyone in, and then let their customers "wote" in some way, instead of doing a real certificatin program...

HINT: LPI has already developed a system that's quite similar to what I'm proposing here, and that actually works (no they aren't filthly rich now, but it's a sustainable business model). I even think that they could do the whole organisational work for you, so that you can concentrate on coding. (They are cool folks, it's certainly worth asking.)

T-Mobile Austria GmbH,
Information Technologies / Services
Knowledge Management & Process Automation

Dr. Denis Havlik,                                   eMail: denis.havlik@t-mobile.at
Rennweg 97-99, BT2E0304031        Phone: +43-1-79-585/6237          
A-1030 Vienna                                        Fax:      +43-1-79-585/6584