No support for open source projects


Many believe that open source projects cannot be used in the enterprise because of the lack of support. This is untrue.

Many believe that only proprietary software can offer support accompanied by a service level agreement. In fact many open source projects have a commercial arm for the very purpose of offering support contracts. For open source projects that do not have commercial arms many third party consulting companies can pick up the slack. Consulting firms large and small have standard support agreements to offer or may offer custom agreements. Open source software with commercial support

  1. Bind
  2. Cfengine
  3. MySQL
  4. Opennms
  5. Openoffice
  6. Sendmail
  7. Zenoss
  8. Zimbra
  9. Zope

Open source software with third party support. Really almost any consulting firm can offer support for any open source project.

  1. Apache
  2. Linux (both the kernel and entire distributions)
  3. Nagios
  4. Perl
  5. PHP
  6. Postfix
  7. PostgreSQL

Caveat emptor

Any organization that offers commercial support is doing so to earn a profit. This suggests that the support they offer may only go as far as the money. If a client makes high demands but are not a high revenue customer to the provider, the provider may choose to cut its losses. Some clients feel that contract law will keep the provider honest. If a client needs to put its lawyer to work the support issue is going to be long overdue. How much will that cost? Ultimately an organization should be prepared to fend for itself through other means.

Self support

Training staff.

Who knows how long any software project will last? Open source and proprietary projects alike can disappear overnight. Training staff will provide an organization with a long term resource for current and future support.

Peer support groups.

Many projects provide mailing lists, web forums or news groups where users, and often active project members, collaborate to solve support problems at no charge. It is often hard for hard core business people to imagine people helping you for nothing. Many of the people on these forums offer help simply for the challenge of solving the problem. “Because it’s there“ still means something to some people. Who are these people? Most are regular “techies” with day jobs. Some may even work in your office. In my experience in information technology, which spans more than a decade, these peer self help groups are usually more valuable than training or commercial support.

Dark secret

It’s a dark secret that while stating a policy of vendor only support, some of an organization’s most critical infrastructure is already successfully supported internally and not through a vendor. The chances are good that your organization is doing this right now using Apache, Bind, Sendmail, or Postfix.

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