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News: C|Net: Free versus paid support in open source

  1. Matt Asay, on C|Net, has written "Free versus paid support in open source," an article saying that "developer communities are great for developers, and not so great for anyone outside them... If you're an enterprise interested in open source, budget the money for support." The takeaway is that support forums are great, but target those who know things already:
    Studies utilizing developer mailing lists show that only a handful of core and active developers discuss code development (Barahona et al., 2004; Mockus et al., 2002) , with very little discussion on some of these lists (e.g., the Apache web server list). You're either in the know, or you're not, apparently.
    In addition to being a validation of various vendors supporting open source (JBoss, Sourcelabs, Interface21, IBM, Sun, et al ad nauseum) it also indicates what Your Humble Editor feels is a primary problem with most tutorial content: it assumes that readers know more than they typically do, on first reads.

    Threaded Messages (5)

  2. My issue with this topic is that it is too vague; open source is a broad topic. 1. Open source (components, frameworks, etc) covers a lot a ground between simple and complex. It stands to reason that the more complex the solution the more "support" you might need. However, lots of offerings are narrow and will either work or not. 2. The quality of open source varies greatly. Quality of software, quality of documentation, quality of design, etc. Anyone using open source needs to go in with eyes wide open. 3. One real problem with open source is that most Fortune 500 companies want someone to "blame", a single point of contact. In this context, no amount of money for support will matter if the individual providing the support cannot also provide solutions (aka defect fixes). 4. No enterprise should select an open source solution if they don't have the internal personnel who understand the technology. WRT to open source, relying on external expertise is a recipe for failure. 5. In commercial world a "sale" includes demos, proof of concepts, evaluation of vendors financial health, etc. Where does this exist in the open source world? It is more than just paid support, there is the marketing support, technical support, commitment to customer,etc that drive the equation. This is all an over simplificaiton and a mis-understanding of what the true issues are to "outsiders" when using open source. It seems to me that the new model comming out is that a company builds a product, open sources the product for market penetration, community credability, and code accessibility and then becomes the sole provider (services) for that product in a commercialized form. Often actual modifications to the code is closed but to a small circle of developers. This is not really open source "development" but a mechanism to provide products that don't come with a proprietary source license. We call it paid support but is it really any different?
  3. Re: simpler[ Go to top ]

    OSS is the model for getting smart people in your org. Its a training ground, its a double-check against perceived best practices, and its a time-zone support model. It allows entrepreneurs to set their own terms, and good projects do not discriminate against 'internal' and 'external' developers, at least that is the model that will prevail... If you are a developer, you can choose the project(s) that you want to be an expert in; I have not figured out how Intalio, Mule, Alfresco, etc... set the terms of OSS developer involvenment in implementations, someone please educate me... But it seems like the best software will percolate to the top, and the support will be diversified to an extent that customers can rely on the paid version from an OSS company that organizes the resources. Free support is ridiculous for anyone putting a run-time in to deployment... It appears that we are past the inflexion point, where OSS projects can get funding, especially if they have a revenue model that differentiates against replicates in a specific market niche...Interface21 is demonstrating that you just need good technology to get funding, and with some solid management, perhaps they can execute a lucrative exit strategy... With all software there are risks, even buying CA, IBM, or BEA has risks especially as the product portfolios widely diversify, so as long as there is a legit company with a transparent business model behind it, OSS can compete...but as the author and blogger state, it will have to be paid support to allow consultants and support staff to get their due...
  4. Re: simpler[ Go to top ]

    I have not figured out how Intalio, Mule, Alfresco, etc... set the terms of OSS developer involvenment in implementations, someone please educate me...
    If i'v understood correctly dual licensing projects mostly require that outside contributors sign an agreement where they give the copyrights to the company. (Otherwise the company could not license the contributed work under the commercial proprietary license, afaik)
    Free support is ridiculous for anyone putting a run-time in to deployment...
    Very few OSS companies have the balls to mention actual figures, but the ones i'v gathered seem to indicate that low single digit percentage is actually paying for support. So i'd guess that makes around 95% of companies 'ridiculous'? :)
    With all software there are risks, even buying CA, IBM, or BEA has risks especially as the product portfolios widely diversify
    Though, there is an old saying that "nobody has ever been fired for choosing IBM" :) /Henri Karapuu
  5. Re: ridiculous[ Go to top ]

    The run-time of JBoss, for example, is not going in to production without some support, the same can be said for any portal, IDM, ESB, etc...where apps are running due to its up-time... With that said, it would be nice to see some of these OSS companies be a little more transparent, even as they enjoy the success of being private or being buried in the financial statements of their corporate sponsors, to enlighten us as to best business practices... 95% seems pretty much like the number of developers that have downloaded the OSS of choice, and not the customers that have deployed it, who, you have to admit, are most likely paying support customers... I wonder how IT budgets at companies utilizing OSS are being structured, more spend toward re-occurring annual subscriptions for support, rather than larger up-front license costs...it would be good for customers in the long run to publicize their IT spending practices in order to give a better chance for start-ups that ultimately bring innovation and cost effectiveness to the marketplace... As 4 the question about Intalio, Mule, Alfresco, I am still somewhat confused, do you just go trhough a certification test, and you get to be a company-logo'ed consultant, and do the OSS org.'s funnel any business to these consultants that contribute to the development of the project?... have not read much on how this works, though it would seem to be a natural market for services based on know-how...not every OSS firm is going to have the same luxury as JBoss to hire the 'select' experts from the OSS community to work there... how does consulting work get accomplished? how does an OSS company scale?
  6. Re: ridiculous[ Go to top ]

    The run-time of JBoss, for example, is not going in to production without some support
    I do not understand where you base this, but it does not reflect my experiences. There are loads of open source software running in production without any kind of support, in companies of all sizes.
    95% seems pretty much like the number of developers that have downloaded the OSS of choice, and not the customers that have deployed it, who, you have to admit, are most likely paying support customers...
    RedHat is one company that has given some figures, roughly saying that "3% of the users are buying support". The way how i understood it was that the number of non-paying Fedora USERS (not just 'downloaders') is 97% and paying RedHat users 3%. As there are loads of Fedora home-users this cannot be directly generalized to likes of JBoss, but i'd be surprised if more than 5% of JBoss production deployments have paid support.
    I wonder how IT budgets at companies utilizing OSS are being structured, more spend toward re-occurring annual subscriptions for support, rather than larger up-front license costs...
    No or very low license costs, some support costs, and the saved money is directed to previously suspended projects and the likes that didn't have enough funding previously, it seems.
    how does an OSS company scale?
    Very badly :) /Henri Karapuu