Timmy's Telethon #212 Feb 2008
- Risk: Our landscape is changing so fast there is an extreme amount of exposure to dumping resources into a solution that isn’t supported. If any one component of the enterprise stack changes you’re vulnerable and I trust those I’m paying to cover my maintenance than I do an ethereal community. When it comes to supporting my clientele I need tangible support resources. How good are the support resources for open source solutions? Is there comprehensive up to date documentation? Can I call someone in an a oh $*!&% moment?
I think this article at InformationWeek (number three in the Google search for “open source support”) sums it up well. There is not one answer, there are a number of answers, and you need to choose the one(s) that make sense for your needs.
- Product support, from specialist companies with expertise in particular components (Refractions for PostGIS, DM Solutions for Mapserver, TOPP for Geoserver)
- Stack support, from generalist companies putting together mixes of components (Wheregroup)
- Community support, much maligned, but better than the technical support provided with most proprietary packages
- Training, from folks like the companies above, or specialist trainers like Open Technology Group
- Hiring project developers, an often unappreciated source of top notch trouble shooting and knowledge,
- Consultants, who have to know the tools they use
For me, the money quote is:
CIOs would be well-advised not to buck the open-source trend. On the contrary, they should assume responsibility for open-source initiatives and ensure that their companies have the right support structures in place… They’ll find the more mature an open-source software project, the more mature support options its users enjoy.
Open source requires you to assume responsibility, which is hard for an organization man, with years of CYA behind him, to do. In exchange for taking responsibility for your own infrastructure, you are rewarded with a software ecosystem where there is more than one source of support.
What do open source organizations do when their support provider isn’t up to snuff? They get a new support provider.
What do ESRI customers do when ESRI support isn’t up to snuff? They bitch about it on James Fee’s blog.