I was fortunate to have lunch today with Pete Childers, Chander Kant, and the Zmanda team. We got together to exchange notes on strategies and markets that are working well for our respective companies.
The most interesting takeaway for me, however, was just how consistent the open source market has become in selling value. You still get new entrants that don't realize that open source for open source's sake became passe a year ago. But for companies like Zmanda that have been around for awhile, you sell value. Open source might get you in the door, but value closes the deal.
In Zmanda's case, it has the opportunity and challenge of building a business around a robust community project, the Amanda network backup project. This is an opportunity because, like Linux, Amanda adoption is widespread and hence provides a strong pool of proponents to sell into. However, it's also a challenge because many in this community get along very well with Amanda (command-line driven), without need for any commercial frills around the edges.
Still, I have to believe that there's a ready audience for what Zmanda sells: a slick, super-easy to use management console (for Amanda and MySQL databases). Basically, Zmanda has harnessed the power of Amanda for the rest of us. It was easy enough to use that even I could grok it. I can see Zmanda doing for backup what Microsoft did for the desktop: making it easy enough and cost effective enough for a much wider audience of users to buy into.
One of the areas that Zmanda diverges from Microsoft and its proprietary competitors (like Veritas/Symantec) is that you don't buy into lock-in. In the backup world, you might buy Veritas today but you also have to buy Veritas 20 years from now (if your retention policy requires that duration of data backup) to get your data out of the system. That makes for a great, but nearly criminal, business model. Zmanda, on the other hand, lets you get data out...even without Zmanda. Open formats. Open standards. Open choice for customers.
Backup - whether in the enterprise or on the desktop - doesn't get the attention it deserves. It's that thing you don't care much about until you lose all your data, and then you'd give your first born to have had it data loss oss minus 1 second. With Zmanda, it's easy to conceive that the price point (pennies on the proprietary dollar) will draw in otherwise begrudging buyers. People who can afford to trade a few dollars for a significant boost in productivity and peace of mind.
That's the model, anyway.