It was an innocent question near the end of a friendly breakfast interview next to the Atlanta Airport.
How many people work for you?
Compiere principal Jorg Janke's spokesman piped up. "About 150."
"Well," said Janke. "Not exactly." If you go to Compiere's Portland office, in a small office suite just southeast of downtown, you won't find anything near 150 people. That is, however, the number of people who work pretty much full-time on issues related to its open source ERP and CRM software. They work for its partners, its distribution channels, or independently. Compiere is just the tip of the iceberg.
This is not unusual. The support you get from an open source vendor is seldom defined by its head count. Its channel partners, and even other users, can also be called upon for help and advice. This is in stark contrast to what Janke faced when he worked in Oracle, back in the 20th century. Or when he founded Compiere in 1999 as a commercial vendor.
As he prepared for a meeting with some of those partners, Janke put this diplomatically. "We have a loyal partner base. Most were in the free market space and at some point the vendors made them a low priority. With Compiere they can do it. With others they have to wait for the vendor, they have to escalate it, and the partner has to wait as well. It becomes a credibility issue for the partner."
This is really what defines open source's strength in the enterprise space. When a customer has a problem they have it now. They may not be a big customer, and the problem may not look like a high priority from the corporate office, but the user is in pain. Maybe you can't act. But maybe someone else can.