The curious (mis)perception of open-source support

Is open-source support really that bad? No, it's not. It's just that enterprises are still using old ideas to make current purchasing decisions.

Forrester finds that European enterprises cite support as their biggest reason for not adopting open-source software. This has persisted for years, with support (or, a lack thereof) consistently listed as one of the top reasons that enterprises throughout the world avoid open source.

The ironic thing is that open-source companies primarily sell support, not software. So...while proprietary-software vendors sell licenses with support as an afterthought, enterprises don't seem to question that they're going to get support. At the same time, open-source companies sell support with licenses as an afterthought...and enterprise buyers worry that they won't get support.


Ultimately, I think this is a question of the relative maturity of the open-source market. Buyers equate the size of their vendor with the availability of support, and most open-source vendors are still tiny compared to Oracle, SAP, IBM, and Microsoft.

What they may be missing, however, is that a dedicated open-source vendor that makes its money selling support may well be a better source of support than a large vendor for whom support isn't its primary revenue stream.

I don't want to suggest that open-source support is always better than that provided by proprietary vendors. Oracle, as just one example and despite widespread grousing, consistently wins awards for its support .

No, I'm just suggesting that stifling your company's open-source adoption because of a perceived lack of support is silly and outdated. Welcome to the 21st Century. Open-source vendors provide support as good or better than their proprietary peers. Really.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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