Dr Mendus Jacob, managing director and CEO of IPSR.
Q How do you view the adoption of open source technology in the Indian SME segment?
Open source technology is witnessing a good amount of adoption across the country. Some state governments and government organisations have officially adopted open source. We also come across a lot of reports stating that the government of India is also planning to adopt and promote open source software in most public software domains. This is good news, as open source technology is growing and flourishing in the desired way. Moreover, the non-profit and business sectors have shown great affinity to this technology, especially owing to the economic slowdown, which had called for urgent cost-cutting measures.
Q Which part of the country has been most responsive when it comes to open source technologies?
The world has welcomed open source technologies. India has accepted it. We see it everywhere, basically. Though we operate from Kerala in south India, we have already established a worldwide customer base and we have clients from most parts of India. Technology wise, we believe there is a greater response to open source technologies in the southern part of India, but other regions are not far behind in the race.
Q You have been working on open source technology solutions for a long time now. How have you seen the market evolve over these years?
Clients in the SME segment and educational sectors have shown tremendous interest in the adoption of open source technology, particularly in services like content management systems, e-business systems, learning support systems and other Web applications. Additionally, we have seen a huge shift in the Web hosting industry. Hosting companies have already started to forget the traditional servers, and are rapidly moving towards virtual private Linux servers and public cloud services because of the cost benefits. There has been an increased level of awareness about open source technologies, thanks to the media coverage and the government level adoption of open source. When such an adoption takes place, it continually throws up the requirement for a technology-oriented work force. This is exactly what we have been contributing to the industry.
When we first began our operations 15 years ago, we understood the importance of open source technologies in the long run, and aligned ourselves towards initiating our association with Red Hat Inc., as an authorised training partner back in 2003. We knew that when there is a technology shift to open source, most organisations would require a workforce that could easily manage and control this change with minimal costs. We have witnessed many organisations passing through the recession, the economic slowdown and the various industry hiccups over these years. But, when we look back today, it is evident that we have only supported the industry in a beneficial way by supplying trained talent. Today we cater to the requirements of clients from over 50 countries across the globe.
Q What are the main challenges that you face when it comes to convincing the SME segment about adopting solutions based on open source technology?
Educating clients is a challenge. To get SME companies educated about the cost advantages offered by adopting open source technology is not an easy task. It requires a lot of effort. Well, at the end, it is all fruitful, but the initial stages of convincing a client is a tough road to cross. Then again, there is a common misunderstanding that, if the source code is open, it is not secure. People believe that it is open to all and that there could be security holes and flaws, which could be utilised by hackers. While no software can be free of bugs or vulnerabilities, open source has the backing of the community members, who find out the vulnerabilities and patch them at a much faster pace than most of the closed source alternatives.
It is also difficult to convince clients about the cost of program code, customisation and service, because some people think that everything about open source is free. It is not that way. Basically, it boils down to the fact that the words open and free are not perceived by everyone in the real sense of open source.
Q Tell us about your product offerings and their development being done in India?
We focus on open source based servicesimplementation and trainingtypically as per client requirements. We specialise in setting up cloud based infrastructure and services, Web applications and mobile applications. We do this by customising existing open source applications or by building custom applications. This includes public and private cloud configurations, migration to the cloud, managed support for the cloud, application management and developer support in the cloud, cloud based development, content management systems, e-commerce systems, learning management solutions, custom Web portals, etc.
Under the training wing, we primarily offer certification programmes in Red Hat Linux. These give employers ways to find and develop qualified professionals and help technical professionals prove their skills on Red Hat technologies. Being an authorised Red Hat Training partner for 12 years, we have been recognised as the best Red Hat training partner in Asia Pacific. With more than 25+ trainers, we offer the RHCSA, RHCE, RHCVA, RHCDS and the RHCA certification programmes.
Q What kind of engineering team is involved in the process?
Based on requirements for the projects, systems architects, analysts, developers, UI experts, testers, systems administrators, etc, are included in teams managed by project managers. We make use of the agile development methodology called Scrum.
Q Do you support the view that certifications help in fetching a job? Most of the companies I speak to consider certifications as just an add-on.
We are an authorised and loyal training partner of Red Hat since 2003. We have trained over 10,000 professionals who currently work in multinational companies in India and abroad. We anticipated the importance of Red Hat certifications in smoothening the rocky road for job-seekers very early.
IT certifications cannot be considered as just an add-on. They could be considered a decoration to the bachelors degree already possessed by a job-seeker. A certification differentiates an IT graduate from others during the recruitment process.
It has been widely reported that finding Linux talent is a major concern, since Linux is growing at such a rapid rate. Linux talent is being sought for at an unbelievable pace. When we supply trained and certified professionals to an organisation, we are basically supplying an industry-related ready workforce. This gives an edge to the hiring organisation. Their training costs become less and the employee can be easily assigned to new projects in minimal time. We make both parties happythe job-seeker and the hiring organisation. The certification also helps employees get career advancements within the organisation.
Q What is the next step for a person getting an IT certification?
This would ideally depend on the interests of the individual. The candidates could either climb up the certification ladder or choose to advertise themselves in the job pool. The more the certifications achieved, the higher the chance of getting a job.
In the case of Red Hat certification, prospects can join in as junior systems administrators, for which they would be required to gather and update knowledge in areas like virtualisation, the cloud and the like. This would, of course, be as per the requirement of the employer. Security administrator, data centre administrator and storage administrator are some of the other roles prospects could undertake from then on.
Q What are the avenues for a person getting certified in an open source technology domain?
Jobs are aplenty for people with the expertise in open source technologies. The person can work in data centres, internal server administration at airports, banks, universities, public parks, Web hosting companies, etc. The list is endless.
Q Do you see enough job avenues opening up for people trained with open source technologies in India?
Rapid growth in the use of open source technologies in IT firms and government entities has created thousands of new job opportunities for people who are trained in these technologies.
Not surprisingly, enterprises are now describing open source as the core to their businesses, and the demand for expertise in open source technologies is mounting to whopping heights. On the Linux platform, the cloud is the true winner. The reports from IDC point out that cloud computing will generate 2.3 million new jobs in India in 2015. It is interesting to note that apart from cloud computing, allied services like server support, security, systems integration, the data centre, virtualisation, data storage, remote infrastructure management, IT transformation, etc, will be defining the global corporate, industrial and services sectors in the future.
Besides, governments and enterprises are increasingly undertaking transformation projects with new open source technologies. Mirroring these trends, without doubt, open source technologies are going to be the future, and IT professionals will soon acknowledge competencies in open source technologies as a career-advancing tool. Going forward, the IT sector is going to be flooded with opportunities in open source, not only in India but also around the world.
The author is senior assistant editor at EFY.