Where should you go for open source support?

Where should you go for open source support?

Summary: If you're taking software free and buying support from elsewhere, the guys who built the program can't eat, unless they find a way to get a rake-off from the support team's revenue. Which isn't going to happen. Or start charging you directly for their code updates, which might.

TOPICS: Open Source, CXO

Marc and Nathalie Fleury 2007When open source was new, the support equation was simple. You would call up and get it from the author.

The author would charge you. The author would hire other contributors, build a team, and your money would support the team. Jolt and espresso beans for everyone!

Around the time I launched this blog, Marc Fleury (above, with his lovely wife Nathalie) had taken this idea to glory, building a team of superstars around JBOSS and promising them all a share of the spoils.

It worked, for a time. Then JBOSS was bought by Red Hat, Fleury was bounced from his perch, and now those are the good old days.

No individual has enough bandwidth to personally deliver support and keep the product growing. Support, in time, has to become a separate function.

So then why not split it off from development entirely, as Credativ has begun doing? Look, one-stop shopping for all your open source support needs.

The reason is you're now siphoning cash from the development effort. The idea of support in open source is that's a shared pot, for everyone involved in the project, from the coders to the dreamers to the drones in the pit.

If you're taking software free and buying support from elsewhere, the guys who built the program can't eat, unless they find a way to get a rake-off from the support team's revenue. Which isn't going to happen. Or start charging you directly for their code updates, which might.

But take development costs out and support services can become a bargain, or so Credativ hopes.

It is a puzzlement.[poll id=61]

Topics: Open Source, CXO

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  • The puzzlement is............

    Who goes anywhere for support?

    If it's an OEM computer, they go to the
    manufacturer. Microsoft makes it VERY CLEAR
    (EULA) that they are NOT responsible for
    anything that goes wrong, even though the
    software belongs to them, because they do
    not manufacture the hardware. Otherwise,
    anyone I know of, who doesn't just call
    someone to "fixit", starts searching the
    internet for a fix. If their computer won't
    boot up, they use somebody else's computer
    to search. There is more support on the
    internet, right now, for Linux, than
    Microsoft has ever provided for any of their
    products. In all the years I have used
    Microsoft products, the only support they
    have ever provided me was support for
    Microsoft to collect more money. I often
    wonder where all the people who brag about
    Microsoft support get their information. It
    (the information) certainly couldn't be from
    Microsoft's customers (currently know as
    users, should be changed again to used).
    Ole Man
  • Actually, credativ employs free software developers

    As one of the support people that credativ employs, I can vouch for how they give back to the community.

    The credativ support team is made up of free software developers, people who are involved in various projects and are active contributors to free software. For example, we have 10 Debian developers who maintain many packages and a big chunk of Debian's infrastructure between them. All the technical guys have links with the community, and we contribute patches and bug reports as a direct part of the technical support work we do. As well as making sure all these free software developers get to eat, credativ also sponsors various free software projects and conferences directly.

    There are companies who make money from open source without giving anything back, but credativ is not one of them.
    Tim Retout
  • Support only business model isn't viable

    Dana, I find it hard to believe that a support only business model is viable for a non-niche OSS vendor.

    Just look at how Red Hat, JBoss, MySQL and other leaders have shifted towards "this if for the community, and these other things are for paying customers". The latter sounds awfully like the enterprise software business model. ;-)

    Would love to get your thoughts on the viability of the support only business model as the leaders shift towards selling products under the guise of "buy a subscription to get this version of the product".
  • Living proof: Free Software developers at credativ

    My name is Torsten Rahn. Tim has already replied, so
    I'd like to introduce myself as a living proof:
    I'm one of the full-time open source developers who
    has worked at credativ since almost four years now --
    Before that time I had worked at SUSE Linux for
    another few years before I had started to work for

    If you look up my name on Google you'll realize that
    I've been involved with the KDE project since almost
    exactly 10 years now and I have spent a few 10,000
    hours on KDE development and promotion during that
    I created the official KDE logo back in 1998 which
    hasn't changed much since then and which is being
    displayed on several million desktops today.
    I was the lead artist for the KDE project from KDE
    1.0 to KDE 3.1. In 2000 I created the basic concept
    behind icon loading which has become a freedesktop
    standard and is still being used by KDE 4.0 and Gnome
    these days.
    And I'm well known at German Linux fairs for having
    promoted KDE actively since 1999.

    Thanks to our company credativ I've been able to find
    much time during the last three years to work on
    another KDE project called "Marble Desktop Globe"
    which will be shipped as one of the highlights of
    KDE-Edu in KDE 4.0:


    Like me there are several other well-known KDE,
    PostgreSQL and Debian developers working at credativ,
    like Peter Eisentraut (PostgreSQL), Tobias K??nig
    (KDE), Carsten Wolff (KDE), Alexander Wirt (Debian)
    and numerous other people who have been involved with
    popular open source projects for years. During our
    work on projects for our customers we have
    contributed back a huge amount of patches to our
    favourite open source projects.
    • Are You Payed?

      And you independently wealthy and don't need a pay check, or do they pay you?

      This is not a "smart-aleck" question, I am really quite interested in the economics of this pholosophy.

      I am fully aware that accusations against companies being "greedy" are usually misplaced, because companies have to have a cash flow to survive, and all workers need and must be paid. It is not greed, it is survival.
  • Press F1 for Google, I mean Help.

    D T Schmitz
  • There is no support ;-)

    Where do I go for open source support when I'm wrist deep is someone's spaghetti code? Well first to the website of the authors to trawl through totally inadequate out of date documentation often written by a non-native English speaker.

    Next to Google to see if I can locate any other poor buggers with the same problem - you can spend hours and days doing this.

    Finally it may be easier to rewrite the code. Normally users of open source don't have this option.

    But then you get what you pay for don't you and in this case I paid nothing, so I can't really complain ;-)
  • RE: Where should you go for open source support?

    When you have worked with both Linux and Windows, you realize that Linux need not be re-installed every six months like Windows does. Linux keeps on working. That is my personal experience as Linux Systems Engineer and I have worked with both Linux and Windows.
    So, I do not see what the problem is with Linux support - apart from installing the OS, (by using kickstart files and installation servers you can automate that) you hardly need any support.
    Linux is a great OS that keeps on working and can be automated to install all the latest updates.

    BUT, if you want to play lots of games, Linux is not for you, as there are not many games available for Linux.
    Linux is for serious business - very stable. Ask Google, and ask the NCSA how stable their 10,000 core hpc cluster is.
  • RE: Where should you go for open source support?

    It all depends on the solution. If you're looking for a business intelligence solution, then go with a platform that's commercially supported like Pentaho. Much like MySQL, JBoss, and SugarCRM, Pentaho has the "Commercial Open Source" model to provide high quality support for free software.
  • Re: Are you paid?

    > And you independently wealthy and don't need a pay check,
    > or do they pay you?

    Huh? Of course if I say "I'm a fulltime-employee" that means
    that I'm a permanent employee who receives his regular good
    salary for a full-time job each month.
    Really, credativ has got several excellent open source
    developers employed. And given that many kinds of Open Source
    solutions are pretty much accepted already these days, there
    are quite some companies and organizations who need experts
    when it comes to OSS consultancy, OSS support or development of
    custom solutions based on Open Source software.