Red Hat has blazed a path for all open source software (OSS) companies to follow after it raked in US$1.13 billion in the fiscal year of 2012--making it the first pure-play open source company to hit the billion dollar revenue milestone.
Jeffrey Hammond, principal analyst at Forrester Research, said the company has proven it can go toe-to-toe with the enterprise market's big boys by signing customers up to use its OSS products for mission-critical processes.
With Red Hat's example in mind, ZDNet Asia spoke to industry watchers to find out which other OSS vendors could potentially take after the industry trailblazer, in terms of monetizing their products or being in position to meet present and future business needs.
Black Duck Software
Hammond said Black Duck Software, a provider of strategy, products, and services for enabling enterprise-scale adoption of open source software, is a company that proves one can build commercial products using open source tools.
He noted that one of its key value propositions is it not only helps large companies extract economic value from using OSS at scale, but also identifies potential risks and makes sure OSS frameworks are not misused and licenses are complied with.
"Many developers don't understand the differences between viral licenses like General Public License (GPL), and non-viral licenses like Eclipse Public License (EPL) or MIT, and this can result in situations where a developer might integrate code or an OSS framework into his work and contaminate a company's intellectual property (IP)," the analyst said, adding that these are reasons why he picked it to be on his list.
The Forrester analyst also identified Sencha as another open source software company to keep an eye on. According to the company's Web site, Sencha is a provider of open source Web application frameworks and tools to major enterprises and independent developers. Thousands of enterprise customers, including half of the Fortune 100, rely on its technologies to power their internal and external business applications, it noted.
On the company's plus points, Hammond said it is producing a lot of really good mobile and Web frameworks currently and these are "poised to be the next big development frameworks".
Matt Aslett, research manager of data management and analytics for 451 Research, pointed to --as the "next Red Hat" for Apache Hadoop in the sense that it is replicating the former's business model in committing to making its software 100 percent open source.
Comparing with competitor Cloudera, Aslett said while the company's Hadoop distribution is entirely based on the open source model, it complements this with its Cloudera Manager software for its enterprise offering. Hortonworks, however, makes its Data Platform and Hortonworks Management Center entirely open source.
"From an open source strategy perspective, it is going to be fascinating to see if one of these two friendly rivals will emerge as the dominant Hadoop distributor in the same way that Red Hat emerged as the dominant Linux distributor," he said.
Jay Lyman, senior analyst at 451 Research, said Puppet Labs was his pick for an OSS company to watch, primarily because it has positioned itself well in the .
He told ZDNet Asia that the company provides server automation frameworks written in Ruby programming language and it is the key starting point for the implementation of DevOps--which is the joining of development and operations to leverage cloud computing resources for agility, automation, and efficiency.
It has also progressively added more Windows support and expanded beyond mostly Linux platforms to service increasing demand from large enterprises that have mixed environments and Windows management needs, Lyman noted.
He added that what the company offers reflect the ongoing extension of DevOps practices and technologies from Web 2.0, media, and technology companies to more mainstream enterprise verticals including financial services, insurance, telecom, government, etc.
Forrester's Hammond, too, identified the company as one to monitor. He said Puppet Labs' framework is used by a growing number of enterprises to manage the provisioning of IT infrastructure, and it allows organizations to take "serious software costs" out of the IT service management (ITSM) efforts.
Zenoss is another systems management provider that Lyman said benefits from the prominence of open source software in key industry trends such as cloud computing and DevOps, which makes it worth monitoring.
The 451 Research analyst noted that Zenoss maintains a free community version as well as offering commercial subscriptions for its software. It also leverages partnerships with large IT vendors such as Cisco Systems and VMware to cater to mid-market customers, thus wedging itself into the market against larger, proprietary software providers, he added.