Open source software supportability

When it comes to software, I much prefer free software, because I have very seldom seen a program that has worked well enough for my needs, and having sources available can be a life-saver.”
Linus Torvalds

I recently had an interesting conversation with a very bright young man who is just starting out on his career. During the wide-ranging discussion he asked why more organisations don’t use open source software.

In my opinion, it comes down to support. Most organisations (and individuals) want to be able to delegate responsibility for their software, particularly when it comes to business continuity risks. This is where the old adage of, “you don’t get fired for signing with IBM,” often comes into consideration. Obviously there are also many organisations that have faith in their own resources’ ability to support their open source tools, but these are in the relative minority.

Whilst Paul’s question was not directly related to OSS-OSS (Operational Support System – Open Source Software), the perspective is equally reflective for OSS-OSS.

The diagram below shows a generalistic view of what types of organisations choose proprietary versus open source OSS.

I find the middle tier interesting from the perspective of the red question mark. Generally speaking, organisations with medium pockets tend to find it difficult to fund full-spectrum proprietary OSS and baulk at the prices. Conversely, supportability is often a point of consternation for these customers when considering the integration of multiple open source OSS tools to form a full-spectrum OSS.

I believe that there is a great opportunity to service this growing middle-tier market. There are many open-source OSS tools available that could partner / bundle / integrate together to offer full-spectrum functionality and partner to provide a compelling support service.

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