Many times I have considered this very thing: Open a consultancy that focused primarily on Linux and open source. I knew there had to be a way to make it work. Many scoffed and said it couldn't be done, that open source wouldn't sell. Of course now that I've been working with a consultancy firm I see how easy it is to make money supporting Windows (it breaks ALL the time!). Linux, on the other hand, is a hard sell to those who make money babysitting operating systems.
But someone has done it, and done it well. That someone? The Linux Box. The "Box" was established in 1999 in order to provide regional, national, and international customers with support for open source technologies. On top of that, they commit 20% of their budget back into open source software development (to projects like OpenAFS, Moodle, Drupal, dotProject, Jobby, Squid, and more). Located in Ann Arbor Michigan, The Linux Box works closely with the community and has built its business around close collaboration with customers.
In other words - they get it. They get what it means to be a successful IT firm as well as a contributer to the open source community. And now...their hard work and dedication is paying off big. Recently The Linux Box announced a partnership with Canonical to market, sell, and support the Ubuntu operating system. With the help of Canonical, The Linux Box will help businesses in the U.S. to embrace Ubuntu Linux and help with large-scale migration.
I am sure there are many out there who think this model will fail. But it hasn't yet. It's been successful for nearly twelve years and now they are taking it up a notch with the help of Canonical. From my perspective this is big. Canonical has done amazing things with the Linux operating system. In fact, I would go so far as to say Canonical has done to Linux what Microsoft did to PCs in the early days. I say this because I hear Ubuntu (or Ubuntu Linux, or just Linux) heard in more places than ever, from people you wouldn't expect, and almost as casually as you would hear Windows (my favorite sitcom, "Big Bang Theory," even makes references to Linux). Linux has grown exponentially since I first started using it in '98.
And now, what people said couldn't be done, is being done. People are making money with Linux. I have been doing so for a decade as a writer. Red Hat and Novel are making profit with Linux as Enterprise-level makers of competing distributions. Oracle has MySQL and will most certainly capitalize on that. There are Linux magazines, Linux conventions...Linux is just about everywhere now and people are making money from it. And now, an IT consulting firm has stepped into a tiny point of limelight showing the world it's possible to make money as an open source consultancy.
Bravo to The Linux Box. I hope this sparks a number of new Linux/open source consultancies to spring up around the country (and the globe). Maybe even someone from Techrepublic will get the inspiration needed to start their own open source IT firm. This is good news for Linux and open source. And, who knows, maybe we'll see Linux stores across from the Mac stores in malls across the country. It could happen.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.