The curious (mis)perception of open-source support

Matt Asay always writes such great posts.

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.

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just suggesting that stifling your company’s open-source adoption because of a perceived lack of support is silly and outdated.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.

When I teach my open source classes I always focus on this detail because I know that people worry about the support model for open source software. There is also a discussion going on a mailing list I subscribe to about this very topic.

If you’ve heard this as a reason for not using open source in your organization how would you recommend someone like me educate people that this is a mis-conception?


  1. Hi,

    As I posted on Matt’s blog, once you actually start requiring support, the proof is in the response time of your issue. Users that post to our forums generally get a response within one hour. (I can’t say that all OSS projects have speedy responses, but most do) When is the last time anyone opened a support ticket with IBM. I have waited days to get a response only to find out that it got lost somewhere between here and India or ? Free licenses, fast support, and the ability to add / change code which supports your needs. Sounds like a good deal to me.

    Jeff Peters >

  2. I’ll use libraries as the example since that’s our big foray into OSS: I’m willing to bet that most of the libraries in the market for a new ILS will cite poor support as part of their reason for wanting to switch. If support is bad from the vendor they’re using, what makes them think it will be better from another one with the same business model? Better to re-think their own role in customer/vendor arrangement.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *